Happy Birthday to me – A letter to my 22-year-old-self

Today is my 25th birthday! Growing up, I thought 24 would be the year I got married and it would always be the best year because it was my Golden Birthday and it just “made sense”. 24 was actually an incredibly challenging year for me and I’m ready to start fresh! (Speaking of fresh starts, switch your subscription over to slowlybutsurelykatie.com – posts wont be showing up on this WordPress owned site much longer!)

The other day I was cleaning out my Important Papers binder and came across an amusing list from my 22-year-old-self about my 5 year goals.

Dear 22,

If I could show you how much will change since you wrote that list just 3 years ago, you would be shocked. Simply stunned. But honestly, you would also be pretty damn proud. I remember you writing that list in the kitchen of your apartment after just moving to South Carolina. You thought you were pretty ambitious, but were hopeful that it was all possible. The cool thing is, even though the path of life has drastically changed repeatedly in the last 3 years, you have been able to cross off so many of these goals and even more than expected.

You wanted a career with benefits and you wanted to stop working at Express (if I could afford it). Well my dear, you’ve certainly done that a few times over and you’re working to find a position that challenges you and lets you make a difference. You work hard and even own your own side business!

When it came to the love life, you emphasized not settling for anything less than Best Friends + Fireworks and to not worry about what others are doing. After a really tough year and a lot of lessons learned, you stayed true to this goal and you don’t regret it, no matter how wonderful my ex is and no matter how many people are getting married at my age.

You wanted to travel and explore, have a newer car, run a 5K, have fun and make new friends! I’ve certainly traveled, you’ve made some of the very best friends and met some incredible people. You have a newer car that works well (although it’s technically totaled) and you even one-upped the 5K to a half marathon! You hoped to be living in a house and are currently working towards that. Although you don’t have a dog just yet, you freaking love Abby, the family dog, and will have your own when you’re more financially ready – there’s still 2 years until 27 rolls around!

You wanted to have a stronger relationship with Sarah and to not let your family stress you out so much. You never could have guessed that Sarah would be married already but it has definitely made us closer. You’ve learned your fair share of family lessons and you’re still learning so much. You’ve grown even closer with your extended family after living in New York City for a year – bet you wouldn’t have guessed that your biggest dream would have quickly came true just months after writing this list!

Financially, you wanted to pay off your smallest student loan and maybe the next one. You didn’t have credit card debt yet but you were about to quickly find out thanks to only earning $12/hour fresh out of college. You’ll be happy to know that credit card debt is gone along with the smallest loan. You also wanted me to have a retirement fund started and to maintain excellent credit. Check and check! Although you don’t have car payments or a mortgage just yet, you’ve learned so much financially that it will certainly be the case when it happens.

You took a huge risk to pack up your life and move to South Carolina fresh out of college. When you wrote this list you had no idea what was in store or if you could figure it all out. Little did you know it was just the start of so many life-changing adventures. One of the best decisions you could have made was to resolve yourself to get out of your comfort zone whenever possible. You have surpassed your expectations in so many areas and turned a big dreamer into a productive goal setter. It has only shown me that there’s so much more to do!

So happy birthday dear, we made it. It’s been an absolutely insane ride but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Cheers to a new year!

 

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Come join me!

This is the last reminder to switch over to my newly self-hosted blog if you want to follow along! New posts will start fresh tomorrow and you’ll be missing out on a pretty interesting story about house hunting!

I’ve moved to self-hosting at http://slowlybutsurelykatie.com so hop on over there and subscribe! It doesn’t look like subscribers automatically transferred so if you want to follow along with my life (and I mean really, who doesn’t?) adjust your settings.

And if you’re still on Google Reader, it’s coming to a halt 7/1 so find another way. Maybe Bloglovin, maybe e-mail. Unfortunately I no longer offer carrier pigeon service but a lot of other options are available!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

For those who want to self-host too, I highly recommend Angela at Nuts & Bolts! She was so friendly and comprehensive and her prices are stellar!

So what are you waiting for? Go update your reader!

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New Blog Link – Update Your Subscription!

I’ve moved to self-hosting at http://slowlybutsurelykatie.com so hop on over there and subscribe! It doesn’t look like subscribers automatically transferred so if you want to follow along with my life (and I mean really, who doesn’t?) adjust your settings.

And if you’re still on Google Reader, it’s coming to a halt 7/1 so find another way. Maybe Bloglovin, maybe e-mail. Unfortunately I no longer offer carrier pigeon service but a lot of other options are available!

For those who want to self-host too, I highly recommend Angela at Nuts & Bolts! She was so friendly and comprehensive and her prices are stellar!

Regular posts will resume on Friday because I have some fun updates to share! So what are you waiting for? Go update your reader!

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Big News – I’m House Hunting!

Yesterday I mentioned that I couldn’t be paying off debt at this rate without living with my parents. And as nice as it is to let me live with them, I would be here until I’m 30 to be debt free, which is not sustainable. With $60,500 left to pay off, and an average payoff of $1000/month after interest, I would be here for another 5 years, unrealistically pending no emergencies come up in that time.

So I started looking at options that are more sustainable and would be the best way to maintain my debt payment progress. My first thought was finding really affordable rent, which is hard to do near Minneapolis, not to mention it’s at least $800 more in monthly expenses that would take away from debt payments.

I continually stumbled upon personal finance blogs about buying their own homes and my overly active imagination kicked into high gear. After a down payment, a small mortgage would be much more affordable than rent AND if I rented out a bedroom or two, the rent money would cover the mortgage itself. My only requirement would be setting aside some money monthly for maintenance. That sure sounded appealing!

But I can’t afford a down payment!

Typically 20% is standard, and although I’ve been saving while at home, my focus has been debt and I don’t have thousands of dollars casually sitting around. However, if you don’t pay 20%, there’s an annoying consequence called Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, which is an additional interest charged to the amount that should have already been paid in the down payment.

Thanks to my family’s history of working in real estate, I was easily able to talk to a Loan Officer about what I would be approved for, what the additional costs are, and to give me an idea of my options. After giving her my background info, I received some great news.

First of all, I’m approved for $105,000, which is much more than I realistically could afford monthly. I was shocked to see that number and it made me incredibly aware of how our economy ended up in the trash! Just because the bank says you can do it, doesn’t mean you should! Banks are not looking out for your best interests, they just want your interest!

Anyway, fortunately I was already shooting for the $50,000-$70,000 range so I wasn’t concerned. Yes, a small, simple house that might need a little TLC.

Second of all, thanks to having excellent credit, I can take a homeownership class and the PMI will be waived entirely. That means I qualify to pay 3% upfront with no consequence and I can keep my monthly payment low. It’s a win-win! My birthday present to myself is to take that $15 class and save myself a couple thousand!

So instead of throwing as much money as possible towards debt, my new focus is to save as much money as possible to complete a down payment and be a homeowner! Once situated I will find a roommate or two, and then I will be able to tackle debt at my current pace for years to come.

Yes, homeownership is a big commitment. That is why I’m buying small, because roommate or not, I want it to remain affordable for me. The monthly payment is much lower than the average rent and it will eventually give me something in return.

What happens if I want to up and move again, since it has definitely been a trend these past few years? As much as I’ve appreciated the opportunity to travel and live elsewhere, I need some stability for a while. I need a home base with friends and family around and the Minneapolis area is really feeling like home for me, despite the frigid winters. However, I’m not naive and I know possibilities come up at my age. If I end up moving away, not only will this house remain affordable for me, I can take on a landlord role and continue renting it out. If I am convinced to move elsewhere, I won’t be instantly selling this investment.

The idea of buying a house is BIG but I feel really comfortable and confident about this next move. While I work on saving money, my next step is to start looking for houses and I couldn’t be more excited!! I’ve become obsessed with shows like “House Hunters” and “My First Place” and I daydream about finishings and decorations despite having no idea what my actual house will look like.

After the shock of such a large purchase wore off, my family and friends have been really supportive of this investment. I know it’s not for everyone but after a lot of research and thought, I know it’s a good move for me. I cannot wait to see how this adventure unfolds!

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The celebration continues!

You may or may not remember the first major celebration I had this year when I got out of credit card debt. And today the celebration continues because 1) it’s my mom’s birthday! and 2) my first student loan officially has a balance of $0!

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I decided to pay off my loan before I make a credit card payment for my NYC trip because not only am I impatient to knock that loan out, my credit card has 0% interest rate for the first year and my loan has the highest interest rate of all my debts. Don’t worry though, next payday my credit card balance will be taken care of and I won’t leave it lingering with the 0% excuse for long.

So what’s next?

The obvious next step is to continue the debt snowball and to tackle the next $15,000 loan. But I’m throwing in two curve balls. First, this time of year gets packed full of gifts between Mother’s & Father’s Day and both of my parents’ birthdays so I’m giving myself a little elbow room for thoughtful gifts. Afterall, without living with my parents I couldn’t make the progress I have towards being debt free. I have a few really fun gifts in the works and I can’t wait to see their faces this week!

mombday

To hear the second curve ball, tune in tomorrow!

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I Love NY

I’m back from the city and it was just the trip I needed to shed some stress and shake off what felt like a spring slump. It was such a good trip that I didn’t take more than 2 photos because I was just enjoying my time so much! Fortunately, I can steal a few from the other girls.

Here’s what went down:

  • Delicious lunch at Bareburger where us ladies picked up exactly where we left off
  • Being able to get ready to go out WITH girlfriends! It always helps to have a drink and a few opinions and options on outfits!

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  • Megan’s and my FAVORITE NYC meal, Tiny Thai for dinner! Chicken Pad Thai & Crab Dumplings – yum & yum!!

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  • Cocktails on the Lower East Side at Elsa
  • Brunch at Jane – 6 ladies magically beat the 1.5 hour wait and snagged the perfect booth right away and everyone really enjoyed their meals. I especially appreciated the waitress suggested an alteration to my sandwich that I was already hoping to make. Some restaurants, understandably, don’t like when customers try to adjust their meals but she made me totally comfortable with it.

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  • A little wandering and shopping around town where I managed to not buy anything without complaint and I loved giving opinions of what the other girls should buy
  • A lounge-y afternoon in yoga pants with a snack table and a nap. That nap was the exact thing to rejuvenate me after a few months of stress and I still feel like a whole new woman. I think we all needed it and I’m so thankful we are all comfortable enough to just relax!
  • Met up with a big group of ladies for dinner at Mocando – incredible flavors and fun drinks!

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  • Popped over to Brooklyn to go out to Union Pool, where Lenka happened to be in town and we got to visit for a bit!
  • Post-bar Midnight Express – the very best diner in the whole city!
  • No hangovers in the whole group (I think!?) – we toned down our old party lifestyle, which is not only healthier but more affordable and none of us felt bad about it one bit!

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  • Bagels! NYC has some seriously good bagels and schmear (cream cheese). I recommend the Bagel Mill or the Bodega on 73rd and York.
  • Brunch with my godmother and godsister (no, that’s not a real thing but she’s like a sister to me and she’s my godmother’s daughter – whatever, it works). We ate in the West Village at Empellon Taqueria, which was also delicious and so good to see them!
  • I headed out to Chappaqua to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins for a quick dinner, which again, was incredibly delicious and nice to catch up!
  • Came back to the city and strolled through Time Square to meet Megan and her friend Claire at Social for a drink.

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  • Megan and I tried going to the Top of the Rock, my all-time favorite place in the whole world, but with the Tony’s going on across the street at Radio City Music Hall, they closed earlier. However, we did catch quite a few people leaving the awards and it was fun to see the tuxedos and ball gowns.
  • We took a long stroll back to the Upper East Side along Central Park and I soaked up my favorite time in NY, when it’s peaceful (not crowded) and I can walk for miles. Not to mention the weather was perfect.
  • I experienced the nicest airport gate ever, with personal iPads at every seat with free wi-fi and the ability to order meals, snacks, drinks, etc brought to you by a waiter. It didn’t bother me one bit that my flight was delayed with service like that! Thanks, Delta and LGA!
  • I stayed under budget without even trying, which has never happened to me in NY! If I would have cut back on a few lazy cabs, it would have been even better!

It was one of those trips that went so smoothly, which obviously doesn’t always happen, especially in NYC. The four of us planned this trip together but we were able to see our own friends and keep our own schedule comfortably. We never had a wait for a meal and minus a little rain on Friday, I had no complaints. As much as I am glad I had the opportunity to live in the city, I will remain forever in love with NY as a visiting city.

Some friendships, especially long-distance, can be hard to maintain but we picked up right where we left off, we can talk about anything and everything and they’re an incredible support system – the best possible tool in your 20′s. It’s been a really tough year since I’ve last stepped foot in NYC but this weekend, in this city, with these friends was the exact remedy I needed and I’m incredibly lucky.

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Thursday Hodge Podge

So many thoughts but none full enough for an entire post. Here’s a whole bunch of random from this week:

  • I’m going to NYC tomorrow!! I haven’t been back since the day I got engaged – what a difference a year makes! I CANNOT WAIT to see my long-lost girlfriends and my extended family – hi Lish!
  • I already received my credit card reward bonus of 40,000 miles! My next step is to sign up for the Delta Gold Skymiles card, which has a bonus of 35,000 skymiles (not credit card points). I will purchase my ticket to Europe through Delta using with my skymiles balance first and the remainder with my credit card rewards. Even more exciting is that thanks to this card, I get a pass to the Delta Lounge so I can relax before my LONG flight in peace :) As often as I fly, I’ve never been in an airport lounge before!
  • I jumped back into the dating world recently. No, I won’t be sharing stories on this here blog (usually) but let’s just say
    joey
  • I’ve started looking at my next steps for moving out of my parents’ place. There will be some pretty exciting posts coming your way this year on that front!
  • It’s my birthday month! I’ll be the big 2-5 in a few short weeks and I got my first birthday present from my sister and brother-in-law! In honor of “needing a stud muffin in my life” I received this bear named Randy, who I believe is a stripper/cop/biker? Thanks, siblings!?randy
  • Sometimes buying yourself flowers and pouring yourself some champagne simply because it’s Tuesday is absolutely necessary to keep your spirits up.
  • Even after a trip to Target yesterday, I’m still going strong on this closet challenge – as one would hope. Especially while working at home, it turns out I don’t use my cute clothes hardly enough! 51 more weeks to go!
  • Did I mention I’ll be in NYC tomorrow?!?!?! Someone make today fly by and this weekend last forever!
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The Closet Project – No New Clothes for a Year!

Shopping, especially for clothes, has always been a past time of mine. Whether I’m feeling blue or am excited for a special occasion or it’s on sale, I typically have an excuse to buy something new. Hell, my first credit card debt experience started with my Express card! However, after cleaning my room this past week, I found myself realizing how much time I waste shopping, hanging up clothes, and debating what to wear. I eventually connected the dots and realized I’ve spent a good portion of my income on clothes that sometimes don’t even get worn – usually because I just have too many to choose from.

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Yes, my closet is the size of an apartment in NYC. Yes, that dresser on the right is full of clothes too. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve found myself saying I have nothing to wear way too often!

Thanks to the handy “trends” option on Mint.com, I was able to check my past year of spending on shopping for clothes specifically and it came to $1800!!

As someone who is trying desperately to be responsible with my money, this trend HAS to change. Considering my closet is full and there’s absolutely nothing I need, I am challenging myself to go a whole year without buying clothes. 

Here are the ground rules:

  • I can buy bridesmaid dresses and wedding accessories when needed
  • If costume items are needed for special events, those are allowed at a minimum
  • I can use gift cards if they are gifted to me but I cannot use cash gifts for clothes
  • I can accept clothes as gifts – but not in exchange for favors etc.
  • This challenge also applies to shoes, bras & underwear, but not accessories.
  • The two exceptions to shoes is a new pair of Uggs in the fall since it’s been years since I’ve replaced them and if I sign up for a 1/2 marathon, I can get new running shoes IF I need them.

This challenge started on June 1st and so far it’s been fairly easy, as one would hope. One thing I’m excited about is that I used a gift card from Christmas to buy myself a sewing machine so I can tailor and hem items and get the most use out of the clothes I already have.

imageI’m taking this challenge one step further by keeping track of the clothes I actually wear. No, I will not be posting daily pics of my outfit but I have placed an elastic band on each of my hangers that correspond with a clothing item.

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When I wear that item, the elastic will go away. Any clothes on hangers with elastic bands still on by June 1, 2014 will be sold or donated. There is no need for my closet to be as full as it is so it’s time to purge!

What do I plan to do with this savings? Honestly, it won’t be that exciting since this money wasn’t meant to be spent on clothes anyway. Typically I use my spending money to buy clothes, but it usually goes over my given limit. If I’m given $100 allowance/paycheck, that’s $1,200/year. That means I’m $600 short on what I actually spent, not to mention all the other allowance money I used for entertainment, travel, gifts, etc.

When this happens, I have to cut back on saving or debt payments to make ends meet. By cutting my clothing costs, I *should* be able to stay within my spending limits. That way my savings and debt payments won’t have to suffer and I won’t have to type those awful posts about “dipping into savings funds” while I hang up my new clothes and hang my head in shame.

My priorities to save and pay off debt are serious and I want my behavior to reflect that. I’m hoping to learn how to break the habit of shopping unnecessarily. I want to this to be a lesson on being content with what I have, which hopefully will carry over into other areas of my life.

When I told my best friend about this challenge, her immediate response was, “I love you but there’s no way in hell that’s happening.” Here’s to proving her wrong and being smarter!

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May Debt Recap

In addition to paying the minimums on each of my student loans ($389 total), here’s how May broke down:

Starting balance of smallest loan as of May 1: $1,963.63

Additional payments to smallest loan: $1,342.56

Principal: $1,330.94      Interest: $11.62

Brings my smallest loan total down to: $600.50

May ProgressI had a far-fetched goal of paying off my first student loan of $3,265 by today, even though that would have only given me 2 months to do it. It didn’t happen and as frustrating as it is that it COULD have happened if life didn’t get in the way, I can’t forget it has been the highest debt repayment month yet.

Debt Progress May 2013

Extra income came from a lot of situations this month. An insurance settlement from a car accident, rolling over a 401K gave me a small amount of disposable taxed income, payment from 2 large dog sitting jobs, and of course babysitting.

Although side income is expected to slow down in June without dog sitting, it is still exciting that my first loan could be just a memory in a few short weeks. There’s some potentially exciting changes to my debt payment plan and I can’t wait to reveal those in next month’s update!

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Chocolate for dinner

After I wrote yesterday about how I need to start working out, I, of course, attended a private chocolate tasting for Minnesota Bloggers at Sees Candies in the Southdale Mall. Man, were we spoiled with so many delicious chocolates!

imageWe received free samples (they give away over a million pounds of chocolate a year so go get yourself a sample or two!) and even got to try our hand at boxing chocolate. It is a lot harder than it looks and I have a new-found appreciation for this infamous clip, which was actually filmed at Sees!

964036_10101050347197761_986842567_oI sampled the Cashew Brittle, Toffee-ette, and Caramel and it is impossible to pick a favorite! We got some serious take home goodies so I look forward to sampling even more varieties!

image_3Most exciting for me was that this was my first MN Blogger event and it was great to see so many people in person after reading their blogs! It was a bit difficult for me to match people’s name tags to their blog name so I got a little shy but I’m definitely looking forward to the next event!

945324_10100205866513989_35712404_nThanks Kelly and Carolyn for setting this up!

 

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