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Nicole

Money, Student Loans

The State of My Student Loans: Or, On Not Achieving My Goal and Why It’s Okay

Well, the day is finally here… I’m officially the big 3-0! If you’ve read my site at all over the course of the last 5 or 6 years, you might know that it’s been a longstanding goal of mine to pay off my student loans by the time that I turn 30.

So did I do it?!

Unfortunately, no. I’ve known for a while that it probably wasn’t going to happen by my birthday, but I was holding out hope for a Hail Mary pass at the very last minute. That play didn’t happen and I still have a pretty sizable balance.

Let’s take a look back at what I have accomplished, though. I’m pretty bummed about it and find methodical analysis of my finances almost as soothing as a nice, full-bodied glass of red wine.

Where My Student Loans Started

I made my first student loan payment in May 2011. I’ve been making payments on my student loans for exactly 6 years! My how time flies! However, I didn’t enter full repayment in May 2011, as I was still in grad school. Arcane rules for one of my private student loans required me to start making payments on my loan no longer than X years (I can’t remember how many) after I took the loan out, even if I was still in school. I made the first payment for (almost) the rest of my student loans in December 2011. I made the first payment for the last loan in April 2012. When I started paying off my student loans:

  • After capitalization of my student loans (interest earned in deferment is added to the principal), I owed just over $96,000.
  • My minimum balance was $756.07.
  • I had 15 separate loans split across 3 different servicers. This meant that my minimum balance was split across 3 different checks.
  • I had 3 private loans, 1 Perkins loan, and 11 Federal loans.
  • I decided to use a graduated repayment plan for 2 of my federal student loans from graduate school. A graduated plan means that the loan will still be paid off in 10 years, just like a standard repayment plan; however, the minimums start smaller and increase in size every 2 years.

Thankfully, I was able to get a full time job shortly after graduating from graduate school. I was then able to segue my education and job into a more lucrative (and personally fulfilling!) career that has resulted in me earning much more than I ever would have as a librarian.

Where My Student Loans Are Now

Even though I started with a LOT of student loans, over the course of the last 6 years (and really 5.5 if you’re counting when the majority of my student loans went into repayment), I’ve been able to get a fairly big handle on my student loans:

  • My student loans balance is hovering around $25,000. I’ve paid off 75% of my original balance!
  • My minimum balance is ~$440. Although I’ve paid off a number of my individual loans, my minimum balance has not gone down substantially, since my graduated repayment loans’ minimum balance has increased.
  • I have 4 remaining loans. I’ve paid 11 loans in full.

As you can see from the chart below, the bulk of my spending on student loans has been between 2012 and 2016. I’ve held steady at paying $20,000 in student loans for each of the last two years. This year, I hope to pay the rest off. I expect that interest will result in me contributing up to $26,000 to finish the loans off.

student loan payments by year

When you add up all of my payments, I’ve contributed over $91,000 to my student loans! A quick calculation tells me that if I end up contributing $117,000 ($91,000 to date plus my remaining balances), then I’ll have spent $21,000 on interest. Lord, the things I would do with $21,000!!! Or even, Lord, the things I would do with an extra $117,000 if I hadn’t had student loans in the first place.

How I Plan to Pay Off My Student Loans

Clearly, I’ve made a ton of progress; however, I still have a long way to go. In fact, I’ve been paying my loans for 5.5 years and my balance is now only getting to what the U.S. national student loan balance average is. That’s pretty sobering, if you ask me.

My goal is to pay the rest of my student loans by the end of the year. This year has been a bit crazy for us when it comes to finances. We got married (and paid for our wedding) and we also moved to Germany. The wedding cost a bit (although we were under substantially under the national average for that!) and moving will end up costing us quite a bit with furniture costs and security deposits. Stella’s final months were also quite expensive.

In the hubbub of moving, we’ve acquired quite a bit of cash. We sold our cars, received our security deposit back, had been earning steady incomes (and trying our best to not spend money on anything that didn’t contribute to the move), received wedding gifts, and sold some of our furniture.

We’d like to use a lot of that cash to make a big dent in the student loans. But first, we need to do a couple of things:

  • Pay security deposit for our new apartment
  • Purchase furniture and other household items
  • Max out ROTH IRAs for 2017 (doubles as a 3-month emergency fund)
  • Maintain a cash 3-month emergency fund

We’ll put whatever is left towards a large chunk of the loans. We are planning to rent an apartment that will allow us to save about 500€ per month towards retirement and other long term savings. Since we will have done all of our planned retirement savings for the year, that money will go towards the student loans until they are paid off.

Life, Moving

Home Sweet New Home: Willkommen in Deutschland!

We did it! We moved to Germany! We arrived about 2.5 weeks ago and with the exception of not having found an apartment yet, we’re pretty settled in.

Here are some of the highlights of the move and the last few weeks:

A week and a half of not working was NOT enough to prepare for the actual move itself. Even though we’ve known for months that we’d be moving, we were frantically packing until the last minute and that still was not enough time. We definitely have a pile of unorganized things at Richard’s parents house that will have to wait until we visit them later this year.

Zeke “helping” us pack

Saying goodbye to Stella was the hardest part of the move. She started having seizures in December and we later found out that she had a brain tumor, so unfortunately we had to say our final goodbye to her a few days before we left. We wish we didn’t have to say goodbye, but she lived a good long doggy life and we got to spoil her with people food, walks, cuddles and love until the very end.

Good Girl of the Year goes to Stella!

All of the complicated logistics happened before we got on the plane. The last week and a half included selling things, packing our bags, setting things aside for storage, moving the furniture we want to keep to Richard’s parents, and selling my car and Richard’s motorcycle. We also had to pick up random documents and paperwork. Things felt pretty easy once we got on that plane.

After a hectic 48 hours, we finally made it to the plane!

Zeke was a champ on the plane (for the most part). He cried a bit and only made one serious escape attempt, but otherwise his trip was pretty uneventful. He was really good going through both security checkpoints, too. I’ll be writing a more in-depth post about the experience of bringing him across the pond.

This cat travels!

Hamburg is wonderful, but it’s not that easy to find an apartment. So far, we’re loving Hamburg! Things are definitely different here, but they really aren’t all that different. We’re still looking for an apartment, so we’ll be in an Airbnb for a bit (and schlepping our luggage back and forth). We’re hoping to move to our new (to be determined) apartment sometime next month.

We brought 8 bags with us and are having 3 boxes shipped – that’s all!

Richard has started work already and it’s going well for him. I’m taking a much-welcomed break before I start working again in June. I’ve officially been off the clock for a month now and it’s been glorious! I start on June 1, so I only have 2.5 more weeks of freedom. In typical Nicole fashion, I’ve come up with some goals for my month to keep me accountable:

  • Brush up on German: I signed up for four weeks of an intensive language course. This has been taking up the majority of my time. I spend about 4 hours in class and then about 2 hours additionally studying at home. It’s been exhausting, to say the least.
  • Train for half marathon: I finally started to run again after taking a pretty lengthy break after the Richmond Half Marathon last November. I’ve signed up for the Hamburg Halbmarathon which will be at the end of June, so I have a lot of training to do between now and then.
  • Finish wedding thank you notes: Unfortunately, a casualty in our moving commotion was the thank you cards that I ordered a long time ago. They didn’t make it into any of our bags or boxes, so I needed to order new ones. Once they arrive I’ll be able to finally cross that item off of my to do list.
  • Reorganize digital files: Some of my digital files have becomes very disorganized. I need to go through them and get them organized for my own sanity.
  • Find apartment: We need a permanent place to live in Hamburg! We’ve narrowed down our search pretty well. We know what neighborhoods we want to live in, how much we can spend, and so forth. Now we just need to wait for a property to pop up that works (and chooses us!). I was hoping “move and furnish apartment” would be on my list of things to do before starting work, but it appears that it’s going to have to happen after I start.
  • Take care of visa and moving logistics: This item has been pretty slow going, but we need to register our address, apply for visas, open German bank accounts, and other random logistical items. These should be wrapped up before I start work, but they are still ongoing.
  • Plan our travel schedule: One of the most exciting things about living in Germany is that we’re going to be able to travel to so many places! We need to sit down and figure out where we want to go and when we want to go. We’ll wait until after we get settled into our new apartment, but we’d love to aim to go somewhere new about once per month while we’re here.

Hamburg’s Lake Alster on a beautiful day

So that’s that! It still feels surreal that we actually moved to a new country. I’m so excited about the experiences that await us and looking forward to doing something completely new.

money
Budgeting, Life, Money

Married Life: Rethinking Your Budget After Combining Finances

As I mentioned in my last post, I got married a couple of months ago! What a whirlwind that was! I’ll be posting about our budget and spending for the wedding in a little bit, but I wanted to talk a little bit about how our finances (and financial tracking) have changed since we tied the knot and decided to jump into combining finances with each other.

Before I continue, I do want to note that every situation is different. What works for us might not work for you and vice versa. Finances, especially when it comes to couples combining finances, are very personal and should be tailored to fit your individual needs.

Before combining finances: Separate accounts and separate budgets

Before we got married, our finances looked a bit like this:

  • Separate Accounts – We maintained completely separate bank accounts. We discussed how much we each had, but we never comingled funds.
  • Shared Expenses Split 50/50 – Anything that was a shared expense was split 50/50. There are a bunch of ways you can slice and dice money when you live with a significant other. We don’t have similar incomes, but we also don’t have similar debt levels. Richard earns less but has zero debt. I earn more, but still have my student loans. It worked out pretty well for us to split our shared expenses mostly 50/50 and the “extra” money I earned (when compared to Richard’s income) went to my student loans.
  • Separate Tracking – We both maintained separate Mint accounts. I would go back every month and make sure that my spending categories were displaying correctly. Since Richard would pay for some things and I would pay for some things, this was a way for me to accurately show how my spending was happening across categories.
  • Separate Goals – As I’ve talked about at length on this blog, I’ve had a goal to pay off my student loans by the time I turn 30. Achieving that goal probably isn’t going to happen, considering I have only 2 months left and $27,000 to go. In addition to that goal, I’ve also set savings percentage goals for myself as well as goals around my emergency fund. Before we married, Richard’s goals were less rigorous and defined.

After combining finances: Still mostly separate accounts, but combined budget

We could have made some changes to our personal budgets and accounts prior to getting married. We know plenty of people choose to combine their finances are different points in their relationship – when they move in, when they get engaged, when they get married or never!

We kept things separate until we got married for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’ve been working towards my big bag student loan goal for a while. Secondly, lack of need. Honestly, we didn’t really see any reason to do it. We decided to combine our finances when we got married because we knew we would be receiving monetary gifts from people and wanted to put those deposits in a shared account and because it would hopefully make things easier from a moving perspective. We’re still not sure what my job situation will be when we move, so we wanted to prepare ourselves to be a one income household.

Here’s how we have things set up now:

  • Mostly separate accounts with a few joint accounts – We opened two joint accounts – savings and checking. We are still working to figure out how we’ll use the joint accounts, since we aren’t planning to get rid of our separate accounts, but for now we’re able to put joint money into them.
  • Shared tracking – I track all of my spending in Mint. I’ve imported all of Richard’s accounts into Mint so I can get a complete sense of our spending as a unit.
  • Shared expenses – Related to the shared tracking, we no longer do our 50/50 split expenses because everything is showing up in Mint. This has been nice, because doing the calculations for our split expenses and then adjusting the categories in Mint did take a bit of time each month.
  • Shared goals – We still need to formalize this one a bit more, but now that we’re treating everything as ours, we have shared financial goals. Priority number one for both of us is still to pay off my loans. The rest is a little up in the air depending on how much job situation turns out and how quickly I can start working when we arrive in Hamburg.

A shift in mindset

For me, the biggest thing about combining finances has been trying to shift my thinking around the cost of things. When we were doing split expenses, I was definitely thinking in terms of what I had to pay for a certain thing. So if a piece of furniture was $100, I would mentally calculate the cost at $50, since that’s ultimately what was coming out of my pocket.

Now, it’s a little different. The $100 is coming out of our pocket, which probably doesn’t sound all that different, but it feels different to me. It’s almost like the cost of everything has doubled overnight! It hasn’t though, so I’m hoping that viewing things from the lens of their entire price will help curb some of our random spending on things.

A liminal state

One of the things that is weird about our first few months of marriage is that we’re actually preparing for a huge move to another country. We’re also dealing with a terminally ill pet. And we’re also trying to take care of some of our own health items before we leave. This means that our spending is not at what I would consider normal levels.

We’ve been spending a ton on pets and healthcare, and will be spending a ton on moving items in the next month or two. We’re also facing the possibility of me being without a job for a month or two. I’ll probably provide an update on this after we get to Germany, because we’ll undoubtedly have some changes as a result of switching currencies and moving to a more cash-based country.

What do you and your significant other do?

Cost Estimates & Breakdowns, Moving

Should I ship or sell all of my stuff when moving abroad?

One of the big questions for moving abroad that has been plaguing me for a couple months now is: What should we do with all of our stuff? Should we sell it all and start fresh in Germany? Or should we try to ship it over?

I’ve been trying to make this decision from a couple of lenses:

  • Cost
  • Effort
  • Logistics

There are different levels of options: we can sell most things, we can bring most things, or we could find some happy medium. First, let’s start with what amount of stuff we’re even talking about.

What We’d Bring (or Sell)

We currently live in a 750 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment. We have a small storage unit down the hall from our apartment and also keep a number of items stored at Richard’s parents’ house. I like to think that we don’t have too much stuff, but things can really add up when you start to investigate what is in all of your drawers and nooks and crannies. A few months back, I did a sweep of our stuff after reading the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We got rid of a lot of things, but there are still many items that probably could go.

What we won’t bring

There are a number of items that we know right off the bat that we will not bring with us when moving abroad, due to various reasons:

  • Electronics with plugs – Germany and the U.S. have electrical systems that run on different voltages. That’s why you need converters and adapters when you go over to Europe on vacation. Our TV (which is super old anyways), kitchen electronics, scanner, hair dryer, straightener, air purifiers, printer and lamps will not be coming with us. We will sell most, but store a couple of items like our KitchenAid mixer, CrockPot, and wine fridge.
  • Cars & motorcycle – Each of us had one car plus Richard has a motorcycle. We won’t be bringing any of these. We’ve already sold one car and plan to sell the other two vehicles before we leave. We figure that it is not worth the hassle or cost to bring them over. Plus, we are moving to a city that has excellent public transportation. We’ll be living the car free life for a while.
  • Couch – We have a fairly compact couch that we purchased from IKEA when we moved to Virginia a few years ago. We like it, but we have no idea what our new apartment is going to look like. We don’t want to risk moving a fairly inexpensive couch that we might not be able to fit into our new place.
  • Childhood mementos and most photo albums – I’ve been lugging a few boxes around with me that include childhood momentos. Richard is working on whiddling his down to a couple boxes as well. These will be safe and sound at Richard’s parents house while we are exploring Europe.
  • Plants, flammables, and other restricted items – There are a number of things that you aren’t allowed to bring with you to a new country. Plants and flammables are the most relevant to us. Firearms and porn are also on the list of prohibited items, but those don’t really apply to our situation.
  • Consumables, personal care items and cleaning supplies – We don’t need to bring toilet paper, cleaning supplies or things like shampoo with us.

What we will definitely bring

  • Original university degrees, transcripts, birth certificates, marriage certificates and other documents – Germans are big on actually seeing your flesh and blood documents. We’ll bring these with us.
  • Pet – Zeke will be coming with us to Germany! Unfortunately, Stella has a terminal illness, so she won’t be making the trek with us. Now let me go cry a million tears…
  • Plates, flatware, and glasses – We just received some new kitchenware as wedding gifts and we have quite a collection of wine glasses. We’re planning to bring these along with us since they are rather compact and mean a lot to us.
  • Clothes – We’ll probably trim down to the necessities, but we have no plans to trash what we’ve got and start over. We’ll slowly assimilate to dressing like Germans as we buy new items there.
  • Computers and small battery- or USB-based electronics – We’ll be able to bring our computers and a number of small electronics like our cell phones, electric toothbrushes, and a few other items.

What we’re still deciding on

So we have a number of things that will come and a number that won’t, but we also have a number of things that we’re not sure about yet. We couuuuuld bring them, but we could not bring them.

  • Dressers and other small furniture
  • Picture frames and other decor
  • Bookshelves
  • Office chair and desks
  • Bicycles
  • Extra mattress and bedframe
  • Books, DVDs, and other media
  • Wine
  • Mattress, bedframe and bed linens
  • Dining table

Our Moving Options

So that’s all of the stuff we’re talking about. We basically have a few options for moving things:

  • Move stuff by sea in a 20 ft container
  • Move stuff by sea in a small cube (200-300 cu sq ft)
  • Pack everything in suitcases and bring as excess baggage on the plane
  • Ship items in one off boxes through USPS, FedEx or UPS

These options vary in terms of their cost, ease of coordinating here vs. there, and timing that we would receive our options. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Moving Stuff by Sea

The first two options involve putting all of our belongings onto a ship and sending them over to Germany by sea. The initial quotes that I’ve received have been anywhere from $2,000 – $6,000. The final cost depends on how much you send, what services are included, and various port and agent charges. Logistically, there are some important things to consider:

  • Timing – It can take a long time to ship items by sea. We would need to go a period of time before we leave and after we arrive without the items that we ship. This may not be a big deal for some items that we ship that we don’t use everyday. However, for an item like a bed, that would mean we would have to figure out where to sleep for 6 to 8 weeks. The time estimates are also not guaranteed. Your stuff could arrive earlier than expected, but it could also arrive later than expected.
  • Packing – Packing and inventorying of our items is included in the price. If we ship our stuff, we want to leave the packing up to the professionals. There are a lot of rules and regulations of how you need to document your items for customs officials, so it will be infinitely easier and more efficient for someone else to handle that dirty work.
  • Flexibility for Volume – You have a lot of options when it comes to how much you can ship. We can ship a few of our items or we can ship a larger load in our own 20 ft container. This gives us some flexibility around choosing the most cost efficient option for us.
  • Cost – $6,000 is a lot of money! Plus, if you lug it there with you, you will eventually need to bring it back to the U.S. Do we really think the things we’re planning to ship are worth the $12,000 it would cost to bring them there and back? For the most part, we’re still in the IKEA phase of our furniture lives, so this is a very legitimate question. There can also be fees that spring up when the items get to the new country with customs and the port.
  • Finding a Vendor We Can Trust – If you’ve ever googled an international moving company, you’ll understand that these websites are like the wild west. It’s impossible to get a straightforward quote. No one has positive reviews. It’s confusing. I’m really nervous about picking a mover and then having it turn out poorly because I didn’t think to ask the right question or I just got unlucky.

Bringing Excess Baggage by Air

If we want to completely get around finding an international mover and dealing with all of that, we could try to bring our stuff with us on the plane as excess baggage. Like sea, there are important things to consider with this method of moving:

  • Timing – Our stuff would be with us, so we wouldn’t have to worry about not having the items to use while they are in transit.
  • Cost – Excess baggage can be expensive, but depending on how much we bring with us, it could still be less than the cost of shipping things by sea.
  • Lugging our stuff – Our plan is to fly into Frankfurt and take a day to settle down. Then we will take the train from Frankfurt to Hamburg. We are doing this because we will have Zeke with us and we figured that they will want a break from travel before we make it to our final destination. If we bring our items on the plane with us, we will need to lug them on the train with us. This may prove to be rather difficult, because I do not think any of the trains in Germany have baggage cars.
  • Flexibility for Future Trips – We have the option of bringing a few luggage items with us and then having visitors bring additional ones for us at a later time. This will possibly be a good option for the items that we are fine living without for a few months, such as decor items and other nice to haves.
  • Safety of stuff – A major risk with bringing stuff with us on the plane is that baggage handlers aren’t exactly known for their light hand with handling luggage. If we bring fragile items, we are at the mercy of the baggage handlers who may or may not be throwing our luggage around while we’re not looking. Do we want to take the risk of trying to pack our silverware, plates, and wine glasses in our luggage or just trust them on the open sea?

Cost Analysis

I mentioned that we want to make a decision about what to do based on cost, logistics and sustainability. Cost is easily going to be the biggest predictor of what we do. So how do we measure the final cost? Well, that’s what is a little unclear, but I think I can figure it out. First, let’s start with our known and set costs.

Things We Know We’ll Need to Buy

There are things that we won’t bring with us, so there are things we know we’re going to need to purchase when we get to Germany. Here are some high level estimates to get us started. Most of the prices came from IKEA and Amazon.de.

  • TV – ~$1,000 depending on what model we want to get
  • TV Stand – $100
  • Couch – $600 gets us a similar IKEA couch to what we have now
  • Toaster Oven – $75
  • Hair Dryer – $35
  • Air Purifier – $400
  • Lamps – $200
  • Consumables & cleaning supplies – $200
  • Bathroom accessories & toiletries – $100
  • Laundry basket & rack – $40
  • Clothes hangers (wood & plastic) – $50
  • Trash cans – $50
  • Wall & alarm clocks – $20
  • Side tables – $60
  • Wardrobe – $600 Apparently a lot of apartments in Germany do not have a closet. We may need to purchase ourselves a wardrobe. Hopefully we won’t need one of these, but it’s on here just in case.
  • Coffee maker & grinder – $100
  • Drinking glasses – $20

Total: ~$4,000 (I rounded up because I tend to underestimate these types of lists)

Things We Might Need to Buy

  • Dressers – $500 will get us a nice set of Hemnes if we decide we don’t want the bottom of the barrel IKEA options.
  • Desk & Chair – $300 will get us a nice desk chair and a simple IKEA desk
  • Litter box unit – $200 to replace the cat litter station I built for Zeke when we moved to Virginia
  • Bookshelf – $100
  • Night stand – $40
  • Dining table – $200
  • Dining chairs – $200
  • Mattress & bedframe – $2000 for a comparable mattress and bedframe if we decided to just start over
  • Bicycles – $300 assuming we can get some decent secondhand bicycles
  • Rug – $50
  • Decor and other items – $200 to get us started
  • Pots & pans – $300
  • Towels & other linens – $200

Total: ~$4,500

So, what’s the best way of estimating this? I’m not actually sure to be honest. It’s not a clear 1-to-1 on what we will bring vs. not bring and what we will need to buy vs. not buy. We have the option to sell some of our items here in the U.S., which will affect our overall net cost. We also are not planning to replace every item that we sell or leave behind in Germany.

Scenario 1: Ship ~200 cu ft of items

Let’s assume we decide to ship the following:

  • Mattress, bedframe, bed linens
  • Dining table
  • Plates & flatware
  • Wine glasses
  • Pots & pans
  • Winter items
  • Extra pet items
  • Some decor
  • Physics books
  • Computer
  • Speakers

Total cost of shipping: $5,000 (excluding insurance)

We would bring the following with us on the plane:

  • Clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Pet items
  • Living essentials

Let’s assume all of these items fit into two large and 1 small checked bag, 1 carry-on, 1 pet carrier, and 2 bookbags.

Total baggage fees: $100 (our first 2 checked bags are free)

With with both scenarios, we know we’ll likely be buying up to $4,000 worth of items, regardless if we ship a lot or a little. Additionally, we would need to purchase dressers, desk, computer chair, litter box unit, bookshelf, night stand, dining chairs, bicycles, rug, and additional decor. This will likely run us another $2,000.

In total, shipping, luggage fees, things we’ll buy regardless, and things we’ll buy because we won’t ship them will be about $11,100.

Scenario 2: Checked luggage and boxes

Let’s assume we aren’t shipping anything by sea. That means we’ll need to bring everything in checked bags. On the way to Germany, let’s assume we bring 1 carry-on, 2 bookbags, 1 pet carrier, and 2 large checked bags, 1 medium checked bag, and 1 small checked bag.

We’d be able to bring the following.

Large checked bag 1

  • Household items

Large checked bag 2

  • Richard clothing
  • Sports stuff
  • Pet food, litter and supplies

Medium checked bag 3

  • Nicole clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Towels

Small checked bag

  • Household items

Carry-on 2

  • Flatware

Bookbags 1 & 2

  • Laptop
  • Chromebook
  • iPad
  • Critical documents
  • Other electronics
  • Travel pillows
  • Kindles

Boxes to Ship

  • Computer
  • Speakers
  • Wine glasses
  • Physics books

To bring four checked bags, we will spend $200. The cheapest shipping seems to be with USPS. We can ship 50lb boxes to Hamburg for $150 each. Let’s assume we need to ship 5 boxes. That’s puts us at $750.

When we arrive in Germany, we would have a lot of things we would need to buy. We’d need to buy all of the things that we know we need to purchase regardless, which will be $4,000. Additionally, we’d need to buy all of the things in the “we might need to get these” category, which is around $4,500. That puts us at $9,450 to bring what we can in checked luggage, ship a couple of boxes and buy the rest when we arrive in Germany.

Next Steps

We’ve decided to move forward with Scenario 2. We’re going to load up as much as we can in our luggage and then ship a couple of boxes with the rest of our stuff. The cost is cheaper and we have more flexibility to keep the price low (and possibly lower than what I estimated above). Logistically, it will also be easier, because we’ll have our stuff with us and we can bring it through customs rather than having to deal with a port and all of the logistics that come with that. From an effort standpoint, we probably have a little more work since we’ll have to back our shipping boxes ourselves and really make sure we are able to sell, store or donate everything that doesn’t fit in our luggage plus a couple of boxes.

Moving abroad is going to be quite the adventure!

 

Goals

Goals for 2017

Long time no see, friends! It’s been nearly a year and a half since I’ve posted and I’ve decided to make a comeback. A lot has gone on since I last posted and that has left little time for creative endeavors such as this blog, but now I seem to have a bit more time and energy to devote to this.

We’re already a little over a month into 2017 and what a year it’s going to be! In fact, I’m going to be making 2017 great again… for myself.

Goals for 2017

These are the things I plan to accomplish during the upcoming year.

1. Pay off my student loans

As of today, I have about $28,208 in student loans left to pay. Whether you’ve been following me for a while or you’re new, let me remind you that I started out my student loan journey with over $90,000 in student loans. If you want to be exact, the highest my balance got was $96,000 after interest was added to the principal before I started to repay. I started paying my student loans off in late 2011, so I’ve been able to reduce the balance by $68,000 in the past 5 years (and of course, I’ve paid much more than that due to a pesky thing called interest).

My goal has always been to pay off my loans by the time I turn 30. For various reasons, I won’t make that goal. However, I’m still aiming to have them paid off by the end of my 30th birth year (aka 2017). With interest, I should end up paying about $30,000 towards the student loans by the time I pay them off.

2. Achieve a half marathon or 10 miler PR

In 2015, I made a lot of effort to get back into running. Unfortunately, getting back into running resulted in me developing IT band issues, which resulted in several months of physical therapy at the beginning of 2016. I ran in two half marathons in 2016. My speed was abysmal for the first half and better, but not great, for the second.

My plan is to run at least 1 half marathon this year and 1 10 miler (Cherry Blossom 10 Miler) and PR in at least one of them.

3. Do something(s) big and crazy (aka get married with 2 months notice and move to Germany!)

Now that I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel of my student loans, it’s time for me to start thinking about what life looks like post-student loans. What will I do once I’m not contributing a large portion of my paycheck each month to student loans?!

More to come in upcoming posts, but Richard and I have made two huge decisions in the past few months. The first decision we made is that Richard wants to return to school to get his PhD… in Germany! More to come on this, because we haven’t solidified all of the details yet, but we’re looking to move to Germany in the next two months for him to start his PhD work. The second thing is that we decided to get married. And we did! Yesterday! Yep, we’re married. It’s still surreal, but it has certainly happened. And we planned and executed it all in less than 2 months. Needless to say, we’ve been busy for a while.

Multi-Year Goals

This is a new category. There are a number of goals that I have that I want to be able to keep track of over the course of several years. Paying off my student loans has been one of them, but since I’m aiming to have them done this year, it’s not really a multi-year goal any more.

Visit all 50 states by the time I’m 35

My current state count is 33. I count all states that I remember setting foot in. This means that I don’t count one or two that I know I’ve been in, but don’t remember because I was too little. The other requirement that I have for figuring out if I’ve been in a state is that I either did something specific there, ate a meal there, or stayed overnight. Airport layovers and driving straight through a state do not count.

We are planning to be out of the U.S. for at least 3 years, so we may not make too much progress in that time, but I want to track it regardless.

Visit all EU countries by the time I’m 35

My current EU count is 7 countries (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Italy). In Germany, we will be in the center of the EU, so I think we will be able to fit a lot of travel in while we are there. Since I know I won’t make too much progress on U.S. states while we’re abroad, I figured trying to get all of the EU countries would be a good equivalent. It will also push us to really make the most of our time living in another country.

Making My Year Great

To be honest, 2016 year was a rough one – both personally and from a larger societal perspective. It didn’t start out all that great, but things are looking up (despite the results of the election and the beginnings of the Trump administration). This year, I’m determined to make my year great. I turn 30! I will have my loans paid off! I can start to think beyond this huge, multi-year goal that I’ve been working towards! I’m married! I’m moving abroad!

Looking back, I have to say that 2012 was my best year. I quit a job that I hated. I started a new career that fit me much better. I met Richard. I moved a couple of times. I won the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge. I think it was my best year, because I took risks and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Those actions paid off.

Quitting my job was scary without having something full time lined up. Switching to a new career was scary because although I knew it was a good fit, I didn’t know how good I would actually be. I didn’t know if my application for MyMoneyAppUp would go anywhere, but I did it anyways. I didn’t know if I would be staying in Rochester very long, but I ended up going on OKCupid anyways. I didn’t know that a long distance relationship would work, but I tried it anyways.

I want to inject more of those types of actions into my life this year. I feel rejuvenated and committed to making these types of decisions. Time will tell how they turn out…

Goals, Uncategorized

2015 Goals: Final Update

Welcome to my final 2015 goals update! We are already a bit into 2016, so I figured it was time to do a final recap of how I did on the goals I set for myself last year. You can check out update 1update 2 and update 3 to see how I fared throughout the year.

So far, it looks like the only goal I’ll actually achieve is my savings rate. That sounds like a pretty poor year, but I tend to give myself stretch goals anyways (see my previous yearly goal results and you’ll see what I mean – 2012, 2013, 2014). So even though I won’t achieve all of my goals, I’m pretty happy with my progress.

1. Pay off my remaining private student loans

My focus for 2015 was to pay off my two remaining private student loans. I started the year with $21,205 in private student loans (across two loans). I, unfortunately, didn’t achieve my goal and I ended the year with $7,795 in private student loans. Even though I didn’t achieve this goal, I think I did pretty well, considering I paid off $12,653 in principal on my private loans throughout the year! The following is a breakdown of how I did per quarter:

  • Q1: $3,346
  • Q2: $3,722
  • Q3: $2,852
  • Q4 $3,490

This past quarter wasn’t my best, but it was a pretty good end to the year. Now, on to 2016 and getting that pesky private loan paid off within the first few months of the year.

2015 Goals: Private Loan Balance - Final

 

2. Contribute 25% of my take home pay to savings and extra student loan payments

In an effort to make sure I’m staying on track with my savings goals, I aimed to save 25% of my take home pay this year. This 25% is composed of savings that go towards my emergency fund and my extra student loan payments.

2015 Goals: Savings Rate - Final

 

I finished the year with a 26% savings rate. I not only achieved my goal, but exceeded it! The last quarter of the year wasn’t all that great when you look at November and December. However, this game wasn’t won in the last two months of the year. My discipline throughout the year is what allowed me to come in over the finish line successfully.

3. Take at least 20 days of PTO

In an effort to improve my work-life fit, I decided to aim for taking 20 days of PTO off this year. I took 16.5 days off in 2015. It’s not 20, but it is over 3 work weeks of vacation.

2015 Goals: PTO - Final

 

4. Be a backyard tourist in DC at least once a month

I royally failed with this goal. No DC backyard tourism during the last 3 months of the year. I think next time I do a goal like this, I need to identify the activities that I want to do before I actually set the goal. I think that would have helped me be more mindful about achieving it.

2015 Goals: Backyard Tourism - Final

 

5. Work out 200 times

In an effort to focus on my health and fitness, I decided to add a workout-focused goal. I didn’t articulate this goal until February, so it took some catching up. I ended up working out 156 times in 2015. I didn’t achieve my goal, but 2014 was an abysmal year for working out, so I think I would have ended up being happy with any sort of substantial workout activity. Now to keep the momentum going!

2015 Goals: Workouts Completed - Final

If you’re interested in a breakdown of how I’ve been working out: I’ve bouldered/rock climbed 32 times, ran 90 times, cycled 31 times, and lifted weights twice.

2015 Goals: Workouts Breakdown - Final

 

2015 Goals: A semi-success!

The only goal that I actually met was my savings rate. I consider the private loan progress, workouts, and days off great efforts and don’t consider them failures in the slightest. Trying to haphazardly do DC tourism was a fail. Now on to 2016!

How did you end up doing on your 2015 goals?

October Monthly Budget
Budgeting, Money

Monthly Budget: October 2015

Long time no see on the budget front! I took a bit of a break from the budget breakdowns, since I was traveling in September, but I’m ready to get back at it!

Looking Back: August & September Monthly Budgets

August and September seem so far away. I was on vacation for 2 weeks in early September and then went away for work for a week in September.

The Budget Good

  • Groceries: In both August and September, I did well with groceries. Part of this is due to increased attention towards my grocery spending, but part of it is due to the fact that I was on vacation for two of the four weeks in September.

The Budget Bad

  • Clothing: I purchased a number of items to get ready for my trip in August. This included a rain jacket, bathing suit, and cover up. As such, as usual, I went over my clothing budget.

August & September’s Net Income

Since I’m pretty vague about what my actual income is (on purpose), I decided to add another piece of information to give you a sense for how my spending mapped to my income for the month: net income. You can usually tell how well or poor a month went by how much you spent vs. how much you brought in. In August, my net income was $733. In September, my net income was $4,374. This large net income amount for September is due in part to receiving my bonus. This means that I was in the green two months in a row!

My October Monthly Budget

Now that I’m back from vacation, it’s time to get back to a normal budget.

Rent: $1075 (my portion of rent – not split exactly 50/50 but almost 50/50)

Utilities & Non-Discretionary

  • Natural Gas (my portion): $25
  • Electric (my portion): $55
  • Internet (my portion): $28
  • Cell Phone (my portion): $56
  • Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: $108

Car & Transport

  • Expected Car Expenses: $70 (deposited into a savings account for car insurance and repairs when needed)
  • Metro: $80 (taken directly out of my paycheck and applied to my Metro card)

Food

  • Groceries (my portion): $350
  • Restaurants (my portion): $200
  • Work Lunch: $40

Debt

Each month, I pay a total of $775 to minimum loan payments. Not that I’m counting or anything, but this expense is second only to rent in my monthly budget.

  • Student Loans Minimum: $565
  • Car Loan: $215

Shopping & Miscellaneous

Pets, clothes and home supplies all come up at infrequent intervals, so I set aside an amount each month to contribute and if I don’t spend it, it rolls over to the next month. Everything else is everything that doesn’t fit into a neat budget. I’ve increased my everything else budget to account for some one-off expenses.

  • Pets (my portion – rolls over monthly): $60 (plus $19 from rollover)
  • Clothes (rolls over monthly): $200 (rollover reset to $0, again)
  • Home Supplies (my portion – rolls over monthly): $3 (due to being $17 over last month and only budgeting $20 per month)
  • Everything else: $400

Total Expenses: $2,455 (minus savings and extra student loans)

And don’t forget…

Savings & Extra Student Loan Payments: I generally contribute 25% of take home pay. All of the money that goes to savings and extra student loans is split up in a 30:70 ratio with 30% going to savings and 70% going to student loans. I now have a fully-funded 3-month emergency fund, so I’m holding off on trying to boost that higher while I pay off the rest of my student loans. I have increased my short-term savings to give myself a little more wiggle room and to establish a dedicated vacation fund.

Retirement Contributions: I contribute 6% to my employer-sponsored 401(k) each pay period.

Notes About My Monthly Budget

“My Portion”: You’ll notice that there are a few “my portion” indicators next to my monthly budget line items. This means that it’s an expense that Richard and I split. For 99% of the things we split, we split right down the middle.

Rolls Over Monthly: This year, I’ve been trying to become more purposeful in how I budget and allocate my money. In some categories, my expenses are sporadic. Two examples of this are pets and clothing. We are proud parents to two senior pets – as a result, we’ve decided to set aside some money every month to cover those inevitable vet costs. For clothing, I prefer to do big shopping trips a few times a year rather than shopping in smaller spurts more frequently. By rolling over my budget each month, I make sure I’m accounting for the inevitable expense.

October Challenges

I’m hoping that August will be the calm before the storm that is my Wild West trip in September. That in and of itself will be a challenge.

  • Pets: Zeke is due for this 6-month well-cat visit. Stella needs more flea and heartworm medication. I have a feeling the pet costs are going to be high this month!
  • Clothing: I’m in the market for a new pair of leather boots and a nice fall jacket. Not sure if I’ll find the right ones, but they’ll likely be expensive.

How did you do sticking to your budget in last month? What are you budgeting for this month?

2015 Goals Update 3
Goals

2015 Goals: Update #3

Welcome to my third 2015 goals update! I set some goals that I want to focus on this year and I keep quarterly track of them here. You can check out update 1 and update 2 to see how I’ve been doing this year. Regardless of my denial, we are trucking towards the end of the year and we’re getting farther and farther away from summer weather.

So far, it looks like the only goal I’ll actually achieve is my savings rate. That sounds like a pretty poor year, but I tend to give myself stretch goals anyways. So even though I won’t achieve all of my goals, I’m pretty happy with my progress.

1. Pay off my remaining private student loans

In my last post, I mentioned that my focus for the year is to pay off my two remaining private student loans. I started the year with $21,205 in private student loans (across two loans). I’m now at $11,285.71, which means I’ve paid off $9,920 in principal on my private loans since the beginning of the year! I paid off$2,852 in Q3, which is not as good as what I paid off in Q1($3,346) or Q2 ($3,722).

Private Student Loan Balances - Q3 2015

 

I’m a bit behind. I’ve paid 53% of the principal I wanted to pay, but I’m 75% of the way through the year. I have a big payment scheduled for October 2 to make a final payment on the first loan. Then I’ll be left with only the second one to pay off before the end of the year. At this rate, I probably won’t have both paid off before the year ends, but I’ll at least have started to make progress on the second loan. I started the year with 3 loans (2 private, 1 federal) that were above the $10,000 mark (don’t forget I started with over $90K and I’m trying to pay them off before I’m 30). Both of the private are now under $10K. I’m excited to see the progress I’ll start to make on hitting off loans once I get through these two.

2. Contribute 25% of my take home pay to savings and extra student loan payments

In an effort to make sure I’m staying on track with my savings goals, I am aiming to save 25% of my take home pay this year. This 25% is comprised of savings that go towards my emergency fund and my extra student loan payments.

Savings Rate Q1 - Q3 of 2015

For the year, I have a 29% savings rate. This is down 4% from Q2. As you can see, I actually didn’t save anything in August, but spent more than I earned.  I made up for August’s lack of savings by saving 54% of my take-home in September. October, November, and December all look like they will be good months for savings. I’m hoping to finish out the year at 30% or above.

3. Take at least 20 days of PTO

In an effort to improve my work-life fit, I decided to aim for taking 20 days of PTO off this year. So far, I have taken twelve days of PTO – 97.25 hours to be exact. I took off 6 days in Q3, which doubled my PTO usage for the year. I will likely end the year with another 4 days of PTO, putting me at 16 days for the year.

PTO taken in 2015 as of Q3

 

4. Be a backyard tourist in DC at least once a month

One of my goals for the year is to make a concentrated effort to get out and explore my “new” backyard – I’ve now officially been here a full year. In August, Richard and I went to both the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and to Great Falls National Park. Despite being a tourist elsewhere for most of the month of September, Richard and I snuck in an outing to a Washington Nationals game last weekend.

 

Backyard tourism in DC in 2015

5. Work out 200 times

In an effort to focus on my health and fitness, I decided to add a workout-focused goal. I didn’t articulate this goal until February, so I’m a little behind the game. So far this year, I’ve worked out 115 times in 2015. This is up 43 workouts since the last time I posted. It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll catch up, but I’d be impressed with anything considering last year was an abysmal year for me working out.

Total workouts in 2015

If you’re interested in a breakdown of how I’ve been working out: I’ve bouldered/rock climbed 32 times, ran 65 times, cycled 15 times, and lifted weights twice.

Breakdown of workout types in 2015 as of Q3

2015 Goals Update: Almost There

Overall, I’d say that things are looking good! As I said, I’m probably only going to achieve my savings rate goal. But I’m okay with that! I’ll be back in three more months to give the skinny on where I landed. I can’t believe it’s almost time to come up with new goals!

How are you doing on your yearly goals?

Visiting the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center
Backyard Tourism, North America, Travel, USA, Washington DC

Backyard Tourism: Visiting the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center

Whenever I go into a travel dry-spell, I make a concentrated effort to go on some backyard tourism (aka going to tourist-y places in my home city). I did this quite a bit when I was living in Hoboken and checked out a number of cool places like the USS Intrepid, Citi Field, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Chelsea Market. This is my first backyard tourism post for Washington, DC metro area.

Richard and I were bored one weekend this spring and decided to check out the other National Air & Space Museum – the Udvar-Hazy Center. The Udvar-Hazy Center, for those of you who are not in the know, is an annex of the National Air & Space Museum. It’s located in Chantilly, VA which is about 45 minutes from the main National Air & Space Museum location on the National Mall. Being 45 minutes out, the Udvar-Hazy Center is afforded much more space than the National Mall location. This allows NASM to showcase a wide variety of things that they can’t in the National Mall location due to space and logistical constraints (i.e. how do you logistically get a spacecraft into downtown DC?).

Boeing Aviation Hangar

When you walk into the Udvar-Hazy Center, one of the first things you run into is the Boeing Aviator Hangar. This is a large space where a number of planes of various shapes and sizes are showcased. Some of hanging from the ceiling and some are on the ground. You can enter on the second level and walk down into the hangar. That gives you an impressive bird’s-eye view of the hangar before you even go down to explore.

Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum Hangar

Planes everywhere at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Menacing plane at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

If you’ve ever watched Top Gun, you might recognize this plane as a Tom Cat, or F-14.  Udvar-Hazy has some memorabilia from a real “Top Gun” pilot on showcase. Let’s just say… this guy really liked being a Top Gun guy considering his license plate.

Tomcat F-14 Top Gun Plane    Top Gun Guy

One of the more impressive planes we saw in the hangar was an SR-71, or a Blackbird. This is literally one of the fastest planes on the planet. The plane being showcased flew set a record when it flew from LA to Washington, DC in 1 hr 4 min 20 seconds when it retired in 1990. Not sure I’m really in that much of a rush to get to LA, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Blackbird at Udvar Hazy NASM    Blackbird SR-71 from the top Blackbird SR-71 Emergency Kit

There are a number of miscellaneous things in the hangar. The capsule that Felix Baumgartner’s space jumped from is on display. There are little kiosks for viewing the inside of the cockpits of various planes. There’s a Concorde (USS Intrepid also has one, so this is the second one I’ve seen!). And they even have a random landing gear on display (Richard for scale).

Feliz Baumgartner's Capsule Air France Concorde at Udvar Hazy Cockpit Kiosk in Hangar

Landing gear with Richard for scale

 

Dulles Observation Tower

One of my favorite parts of visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center was the Dulles Observation Tower. We could watch the planes coming in to land at Dulles. It was pretty fun, because Dulles gets a lot of international flights. I live and work relatively close to National Airport so I see those planes frequently, but they are often smaller commuter planes and jets vs. the big honking international planes. They also had an area that simulates an air traffic control tower.

Dulles Observation Tower Plane landing at Dulles (IAD) Air Traffic Control Station

Discovery Space Shuttle

The most impressive thing about the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center is the Discovery space shuttle. It’s so big. It takes up most of the space section, but they also managed to fit in some space capsules and items that astronauts bring with them to space.

Discovery from the front at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Richard in front of Discovery Space Shuttle Discovery Space Shuttle Astronaut Underwear    Spaces Capsules at Udvar Hazy

Getting There

As I mentioned, the Udvar-Hazy Center is about 45 minutes from the flagship National Air & Space Museum location on the National Mall. As such, the best way to get there is by car. There are some busses that go there, but the most efficient way to get there is via car.

Udvar Hazy Building - National Air & Space Museum

The Verdict

Overall, visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center was a great, low-cost weekend activity. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot while I was there.

Stars

3-stars

3 of 5 Stars: I really enjoyed going to the Udvar-Hazy Center, but for me, it’s one of those places that I probably won’t go to again. I definitely think it’s worth going to if you are into airplanes or space in any way shape or form. But if those things aren’t your cup of tea, I’m not sure that it’s worth going 45 minutes out of DC to get to.

Time Needed

3-5-hours

3 to 5 Hours: We spent about 3 hours at the Udvar-Hazy Center and felt a little rushed at the end (it was Sunday and they were going to be closing soon). Plan to spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on how much you like to read the placards. If you just walk and look, you’ll be fine with 3 hours. If you like to read in-depth, give yourself 5 hours. Also, there are lines for the observation tower. We ended up waiting about 20 to 30 minutes before we got up there.

Cost

1 money of 4

One of the best things about the Udvar-Hazy Center is that admission is free! However, there is a charge for parking. We spend around $15 on parking when we went. Still, for $7.50 each, it’s a pretty cheap afternoon activity.

Have you been to the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center?

Costs of Moving Locally
Cost Estimates & Breakdowns, Life, Money, Moving

The Cost of Moving Locally

I’ve been in Arlington for what seems like not that long, but has actually been a while! It’s almost time to resign my lease, so I figured it would be a good time to see what the cost of moving locally might be. I really don’t want to move, because I like my current apartment a lot, but I could potentially be convinced to move if it worked out well in my favor financially AND my new place has all of the same pros as what I currently have.

Expenses Involved in Moving Locally

First, I want to see what the costs of moving locally will be. Then, I’ll look at how those map up with the pros and cons of my current apartment. Here are the major costs that I foresee coming along with a local move:

  • Move Out & In Fees: Most of the buildings in this area charge a move in/out fee to reserve the elevator and loading dock, which generally is in the $400 to $500 range. That means I’m going to have to pay $1,000 to move somewhere. If I were to move apartments this year, I would need to pay this fee twice: once to move out of my current apartment and once to move into my new apartment.
  • 1 Day of PTO & Time: In addition to paying a fee to move out or in, I would need to take a whole day off of work in order to do so. Many apartment buildings have restrictions on when you can move in. Spoiler alert: it’s usually on a weekday, hence needing to take a day off from work. Packing and unpacking is also a huge time suck. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too difficult this time around, but these things always take so MUCH time!
  • Security Deposit: Knock on wood, I should get all or most of my security deposit back when I move out of my current apartment. However, you don’t generally get your security deposit back until after you move out and you need to provide one for the new apartment before you can move in. That means that I’ll need to front some additional cash until I get back my current security deposit. My next security deposit could be anywhere between $2000 and $3000, depending on the cost of our new apartment.
  • Pet Deposit: In addition to a security deposit, I’ll also need to provide money for a pet deposit and/or fee. Some places have a non-refundable pet fee while others have a refundable pet deposit. Either way, this will be another $300-$500.
  • Movers: I’ll be damned if I have to move myself again, despite it not being the most frugal move one could make. After such a rough move last year, I’ve sworn to myself that I won’t be doing it on my own again. Renting movers for an afternoon would likely cost somewhere around $500-800.
  • Moving Supplies: We don’t have any boxes or moving supplies left after our last move, so we would need to do that whole shebang again. We were able to save money by picking up free boxes from our local liquor store and would try to do that again, but it’s likely we could spend around $100 on other moving supplies. Things we might spend money on are wrappers for the furniture, bubble wrap, and packing tape.

So, when all is said and done, it could cost anywhere between $1,900 and $2,400 to move locally. On top of that, I could need to front $2000 to $3000 for the new deposit depending on how much my new apartment costs.

Weighing the Pros & Cons of Moving Locally

It will be a big chunk of change to move, that’s for sure. However, could it be worth it? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of my current apartment.

Pros

  • Easy Commute for Nicole & Richard: On the best days, I’m only 20 minutes from work. I have the option to take the Metro which is less than 3 blocks away or I can ride my bike to work in about 15 minutes. Richard drives to work, but he’s typically able to do so in about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic.
  • Pet-friendly: We have two pets and do not pay extra for them on a monthly basis. I did need to pay a pet deposit.
  • Easy Access to I-395/I-95: We are only a couple of minutes’ drive from the highway, which means Richard can easily get to work, we can easily drive to Richard’s parents’ house, we can easily drive to the nearest Wegman’s, and we’re able to easily get to our rock climbing gym.
  • Reserved parking: We have a reserved parking spot that is included in our rent and Richard is able to rent an additional space to park his motorcycle.
  • Building amenities: We have excellent building staff, an ample gym, and a rooftop pool. The gym is a huge benefit, because Richard doesn’t need to have a gym membership anywhere else.
  • In-unit laundry: We have in-unit laundry, which is really convenient.
  • 1st floor unit: It wouldn’t be the end of the world to be on a higher floor, but being on the first floor is really convenient for taking out our dog. It saves a few minutes each day, which is nice.

Cons

  • No private outdoor space: In a perfect world, I would like to have a balcony attached to our apartment.
  • Not 100% hardwood: With two pets, we’d prefer to rent an apartment with 100% hardwood. Our bedroom is carpeted, which isn’t too bad.
  • No den or second bedroom: We make do with 1 bedroom and only 750 sq ft, but it would be so much better to have just a little bit more room for a den or second bedroom.
  • Only 1 bathroom: In the same vein as above, we are in a tight space, so we only have 1 bathroom. In a perfect world, we would have at least 1.5!

Neutrals

  • Neighborhood: We live in Clarendon, which is a pretty upscale neighborhood in Arlington. We are VERY close to lots of restaurants, bars, and shopping. We even are really close to some of the doctors and dentists that we’ve acquired since moving here. We really enjoy living in Clarendon, but it would be nice to check out other neighborhoods now that we’ve been here for a bit. We could look in Ballston, Virginia Square or Rosslyn if we wanted to stay in VA, but have (potentially) cheaper rent without going too far away from my work or Richard’s work. Alternatively, we could try looking in DC proper as well, but I’m unsure if we would be able to find something in our desired price point that would be as convenient for our commutes.

What would it take for me to move?

Right now, you can see that the pros of my apartment far outweigh the cons. Looking briefly at what’s out there, I’m pretty sure it would be difficult to beat our current situation. We currently pay $2,075 per month in rent and Richard pays an additional $75 for his motorcycle parking. Our rent cost includes a reserved parking spot as well as our 2 pets. There are three situations that I could see us deciding to move:

  • Extreme rent increase: After doing the math, I know that it could cost up to $2,400 to move locally. That means that any rent increase below $200 could end up being the same as it would be to move locally, if we were to find an apartment with the same rent that we pay now. If our landlord increases our rent by MORE than $200 per month, that is when I will likely start looking at other options.
  • Super deal: I have my eye out at some of the apartment listings just to be aware of what’s going on. If I find a super deal that is either $200 less than what we pay per month or $100 less (assuming rent goes up by $100), it might be worth considering to move as well.
  • No choice: Lastly, a reason I might choose to move is if we don’t really have a choice. We rent from a landlord who owns a condo unit. I think it’s unlikely, but she could always choose to stop renting our her unit.

Fingers crossed that none of the three situations above happen! I’m rooting to stay in the same apartment for another year!

Have you moved locally recently? How much did it end up costing? Why did you decide to take the plunge?