By now, most of you are familiar with the concept of FIRE and the various types: Lean FIRE, Barista FIRE, etc. (if you aren’t, you can read about it here). But I’ve decided that none of those definitions of FIRE really speak to me correctly. Therefore, I’m coining a new FIRE term: Bougie FIRE.

Bougie

Bougie is a term that comes from the French word bourgeois, which means upper middle class. According to Urban Dictionary, it means aspiring to be a higher class than you actually are. It’s also a lot of fun to say.

Bougie is typically used to mean that someone is too good for something, like “she refuses to shop at the thrift store, she’s so bougie”. I’m taking some liberties with that definition, but hey, it’s not like it’s from Webster’s Dictionary. It’s just slang.

Bougie Fire

Bougie Fire is being financially independent while having a nest egg big enough to enjoy bougie adventures. It means that you don’t have to work anymore, but you can live. You can spend that year learning to surf in Costa Rica. You can go on SCUBA adventures to the Red Sea. You can live your life to the fullest! But because you are just bougie and not rich, you have to sacrifice material things to get there.

Bougie Fire vs Fat Fire

I know lot of you financial independence pros are thinking “there’s already a term for this; it’s called Fat Fire”.  However, there are some key differences. First, it’s way more fun to say Bougie Fire than to say Fat Fire. But more importantly, Fat Fire is about being financially independent while living off 100K or more. It’s also about living well while pursuing financial independence. Generally, those who are reaching for Fat Fire have pretty high incomes and plan to maintain their standards of living. Physician on Fire wrote an awesome article on it if you are interested.

Viator 

Bougie Fire, on the other hand, isn’t about the amount of money you plan on spending yearly. Bougie Fire is all about the adventures.  If you spend a lot of time in a low cost of living country (like, Costa Rica for instance) you can do the Bougie Fire thing on the cheap. If your bougie adventures take you to Monaco or Switzerland, it’s going to be a lot more expensive. It’s also about sacrificing some of the finer things so that you can have the fancy adventures.  Some of the Fat Fire folks enjoy their expensive dinners out, nice cars, and large homes. There’s nothing wrong with that!  The Bougie Fire folks give up these things so that we can have adventures. It’s all about what you prioritize, and neither is better than the other.

How I came up with Bougie Fire

I first thought of the term Bougie Fire when writing my post about how crazy expensive it is to have adventures.  It was a tough pill for me to swallow, because I really want to be frugal. But my main reason for pursuing Fire is so that I can live life to its fullest, and part of that for me is to experience all the things. So I said screw it and went for it.

Then I realized how bougie I am when it comes to having adventures. I will eat tuna and ramen for a week so that I can afford my plane tickets to Europe. I haven’t had my hair cut in over a year, I don’t get my nails done, and I rarely buy makeup. But I’ll drop a grand on getting SCUBA certified like it’s nothing! So bougie.

What are your thoughts on my new Fire term? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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My top life goal is to live my life to it’s fullest. I want to have adventures! I want to climb mountains, dive oceans, go parasailing over white sandy beaches, ride dune buggies through rolling deserts, trek through jungles…you get the gist!  The problem is that stuff is expensive. The cost of having adventures is outrageous!

My Latest Adventure

My most recent attempt at having an adventure was learning to SCUBA dive. The world is incredible and vast, but 70% of it is underwater. I want to explore that part too!

I’ve always wanted to SCUBA dive, so when my coworkers asked me to sign up to take classes with them, I eagerly agreed. But SCUBA lessons aren’t cheap! It was $300 to take the first portion of the class; which included the testing and pool training. It’s another $260 to take the final open water certification (which includes 4 dives). But wait, there’s more!  You also need equipment!  The class includes all the hardcore SCUBA stuff, but I needed to come prepared with fins, a mask, a snorkel, and booties. The beginner’s SCUBA package cost me an additional $160. That’s over $700 just to get certified!!!  Insane!!

Are you about to go on an Adventure? Book your flights on Skyscanner! 

SCUBA Adventures

After my initial investment, you know I’m going to want to use this skill!  So now I either have to buy real SCUBA gear (which can cost close two grand for starter stuff) or rent gear every time I want to dive (at about 80 bucks a day). Yeah, this is going to be an expensive hobby! I think I’m just going to rent gear at first, that way I get to see if I like it and determine how much I really will go out there for a smaller investment. Also, I’ll have the opportunity to test out different types of gears before buying, which is always a plus!

The Cost of Having Adventures

This isn’t just about SCUBA though. All the fun adventurous things I want to do cost boat loads of money!  I want to zipline in Costa Rica (starting at $110), ATV in Peru ($45), Trek to the Everest Base Camp ($1150), Deep Sea fish off the coast of California ($150), Paddleboard on Vancouver Island ($25/hr) and so much more! I want to do all the things!! Those prices may seem reasonable, but they don’t include travel or lodging.  My idea of living life to its fullest is expensive!  

Viator

Balancing having adventures with FIRE

Unfortunately, these costly adventures don’t jive well with trying to FIRE.  Sure, I could spend my life living on a small ranch, growing my own food, and getting enjoyment out of simple things like bike riding and reading, but that’s just not what I want for my life. I’m not knocking anyone who does want these things, those are perfectly valid life choices. But that’s not the lifestyle I envision for myself, and I’m not pursuing financial independence so I can have that.

Related: Check out My Path to Fire!

 I want to spend my life having those bougie expensive adventures. I’m working towards financial independence so I can have them. I know it will take me longer to achieve bougie adventure FIRE, but I’m ok with that. I’d rather work a few extra years to ensure that I will be able to build the life of my dreams than call it quits too early and not be able to do all the things I want to do.

So bring on all the bougie expensive adventures!  I want to hear about your adventures and how much they cost in the comments! Let’s find a way to make being adventurous more cost effective!

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"Destroying my credit"

I’ve been nostalgic lately, thinking about my past, my upbringing, and some of the wonderful financial decisions I made when I was a teenager. I’ve written about my middle class upbringing and about my stellar education on taxes. But there was one more area of my financial life that I really messed up in when I was young, and it took me a very long time to dig my way out.

Destroying My Credit

My parents never really taught us about the dangers of credit card debt. When I turned 18 and started getting offers for free money, I took them. I don’t know why it was so easy to get credit as an eighteen-year old with no credit history, but man, it was.

I had three regular credit cards and three store cards before I turned 19. Why wouldn’t I get an Express credit card? I even signed up for an Abercrombie card despite never ever shopping in an Abercrombie in my life!  Free money is free money, right?

Not All Impulsive

Yes, I was a stupid teenager buying all the things with fake money. But I did actually make one legitimate purchase that I couldn’t afford!  My dog, Shadow (I miss him!) had a problem with his nose. It always looked like the skin was peeling off. Since he seemed healthy outside of that, my parents didn’t take him to the vet. Well, I wasn’t going to let my lack of money prevent me from taking care of my pup, so I took him myself and charged it. I think it cost around 500 bucks if I remember correctly (this was a long long time ago). Either way, I didn’t have the money to pay. That was future Melanie’s problem.

Related: Managing Your Money All-In-One For Dummies – Get it on Amazon! 

But Mostly Bad Purchases

The rest of my purchases were stupid. The hottest trends in clothing, stupid toys, long distance phone calls, things I can’t remember. I had a lot of fun destroying my credit!  Unfortunately, I was thousands of dollars in debt by the time I turned 20. And I had no money to pay it. I did manage to make the minimum payments for the first few years, but that barely covered interest, and before long all the cards were maxed out. Even the minimum payments became overwhelming for a poor college student. Most of the debt went to collections, and I effectively destroyed my credit.

Digging Out

I finished college and realized that if I ever wanted to have a decent job and a decent life, I needed to fix my credit issues. I was able to settle with a few of the collections agency for less than owed, and I payed off other balances in full. It took a lot of saving, budgeting, and negotiating to dig my way out, but I made it.

Having numerous charged off credit accounts had lots of negative repercussions for many years though. It takes about seen years for those things to fall off your credit report, and life was hard for those years. It was hard to rent a nice place with such a poor credit history. I had to pay higher interest rates on any loans I tried to take out.  I couldn’t even consider buying a home.

 

Helping Future Melanie

I’m glad that I finally dug my way out and that all those negative statements are off of my report.  I currently have a healthy credit report, and a much healthier relationship with future Melanie. Instead of thinking “well that’s future Melanie’s problem”, I think “How can I help future Melanie?” and life has been much better.

Have you had problems with credit in the past? I’d love to hear your stories!

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"Blog Growth"

Blog Growth Strategies for our Fifth Month

Readership

Wow our readership exploded in month five!  But only for a day really haha. We ended the month with a whopping three thousand users!  It’s a new record!

How did we get so many users?

Partners in in Fire was lucky enough to get featured on Rockstar Finance this month!  Our article The Worst Financial Mistake of My Life was featured in Rockstar Finance’s April 10th Features! I’m not really sure how it was chosen, heck I didn’t even realize it at first!  I thought something strange was going on when I kept getting legitimate comments on the article.  So, I did some online digging, and found my post on the Rock Star Finance main page! Super Exciting Stuff!

After an amazing day of lots of page views, we were also featured in The Financial Diet’s weekly round up!  What an amazing week for Partner’s in Fire!

Posting

I did an excellent job of sticking to my posting schedule this month. Unfortunately, I got sick during the last week and skipped posting on the last Thursday. I even had everything drafted up and ready to go, I just didn’t have the energy to do all the social media posting or to proof read, so I decided to wait and post it next week. Sometimes life happens, and that’s ok.

Social Media

Obviously, the majority of our users this month came from Rockstar Finance and The Financial Diet (Thanks again guys!). But we did pretty well with our social media platforms as well.

Our Pinterest referrals are really picking up steam. We had 174 referrals from Pinterest this month, almost 100 more than last month!  It outpaced Twitter for the first time ever! I think that Tailwindaccount really is starting to pay off. It hasn’t led to monetary conversion yet, but page views need to come first.

With 96 users, Twitter was our second biggest social media referrer this month. We didn’t do as well on Facebook this month as we did last month, but I think that is because I skipped sharing a few of my posts on Facebook. I didn’t want anyone to take offense at things that weren’t meant to be offensive, so I decided not to share.

Monetization

Affiliates

Though being featured on some major Personal Finance sites led to lots of page views, it did not lead to lots of affiliate clicks or sales. We did have a handful more clicks to Amazon than in previous months, but it did not generate any sales.

Our other affiliates, such as Flex Offers and Clicky Homes, still haven’t generated much interest. I think the reason for that is because I refuse to sell products I don’t believe in, so I’ve greatly limited the types of campaigns I will run from Flex Offers. Clicky Homes is a great program, but it is only useful to a small subset of the population (realtors). I’m ok with both of those things though, I know that if people visit my site and actually click through to an affiliate, it will be useful to them. That’s more important to me than making money.

Ads

You’d think that with over 3000 pageviews, my ad revenue via Adsense would have increased. That was not the case. I think I only have Adsense ads on a few of my pages, and those were not the pages that got the views. According to Adsense, I only had about 300 pageviews during the last month. This was not enough to make a dent in our earnings.

I don’t want to destroy any user experience I have, so I’m not going to change the way my ads are laid out. However, if you are interested in monetizing via google ads and notice a discrepancy between your Google Analytics pageviews and your Adsense pageviews, this may be something worth looking into.

What’s Next?

I totally destroyed my goal of getting 500 users for this period!  But I know I got super lucky with that amazing feature, so I don’t think 3000 views every month is sustainable. Partner’s in Fire did get a few extra subscribers from that though, and I’m getting better and better at Pinterest, so I think getting to 500 without any special features is totally doable this next month.

I am keeping my expectations low though, because I have a lot going on in my personal life this month, and I know I won’t be able to stick to my posting schedule. I have SCUBA lessons next week which are going to take a ton of time (but will so be worth it!) and I have a girl’s trip to Vancouver coming up, so I won’t be posting at all that week. Can I get to 500 while skipping three posts?? That’s the goal, so we shall see!

What strategies have you used to help grow your blog?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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my mom taught me about finance

Last week, I came across an amazing post by Lean Fire ATL called “A Man is NOT a Retirement Plan”. This post really resonated with me for a lot of reasons, but the number one reason is my mom.

Mom’ s retirement plan

I love my mom. She’s sweet, she’s caring, and she taught me to be kind to animals and those less fortunate then us. She didn’t have any real goals outside of motherhood, but she was a great mother.

My mom did what a lot of young women in the late seventies/early eighties did. She got married and stayed home to take care of the children. Unfortunately for her, being a mother doesn’t pay anything, and her story is one of the main reasons why I decided to strive for financial independence.

Mom’s story

My parents got married and had their first child at relatively young ages. My dad was 19 and my mom was 22 when they had my sister.  They had my brother and I shortly after, so they had three young children before they turned thirty.

They did alright for themselves despite having kids so young and not having college degrees. My mom was a stay at home mom while my dad sold insurance, and when they started their own flyer delivery service my mom chipped in with that. Things weren’t perfect, but we were a family, and that’s all my mom ever wanted.

Related: From Lower Middle Class to Financially Literate

Divorce

Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, it all fell apart. My father had an affair. He moved out of the house when my mom found out. He stopped paying the mortgage and focused on running the business (which was in his name). My mom wasn’t able to keep up with the mortgage. She was a stay at home mom the majority of her life, and she had no marketable skills. She got a job cleaning out kennels at a pet store, but that paid barely enough to keep the lights on.

 

My mom was able to stay in the family home for quite a while the bank went through the foreclosure process. She tried to find a way to stay close to us kids in Illinois, but it was too expensive (Before anyone tries to chastise my mom for not staying with her kids, my sister was 20, my brother was 18 and just started college, and I was about to be a senior in high school by the time she moved. She knew I was going away to college after senior year). Her parents lived in Northern Wisconsin and offered to help her buy a home if she moved up there. With no other options, she packed up and moved up North closer to her parents.

Moving on

After about 20 years of being miserable and lonely in Northern Wisconsin, my mom decided she had enough. My sister helped her move to California. She currently lives in the Mojave Desert and works part time. She likes that it doesn’t snow, and my sister is able to visit her about once per month and help her with things around the house. She’s planning on moving to the East Coast with my sister next year.

What my mom taught me about Finance

My mom didn’t directly teach me anything about finance, but her story served a valuable lesson. I learned that the only person I could ever depend on is myself. My mom thought her marriage would last forever. She depended on my dad to handle the finances. She didn’t realize that he sucked with money, or that he had a more fleeting view of marriage than she did.

I know it’s a cynical view to take, but I learned that even if I get married, I have to look out for myself first. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t gotten married yet. I have a hard time trusting a guy to do small things to take care of me, like cooking me dinner (which probably stems from this, now that I think about it). I can’t even imagine putting my financial security and my entire future into someone else’s hands. My mom got screwed because she trusted the wrong person with these things. I learned from her example to do not the same.

What valuable money lessons did your parents teach you?

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In my last post, I described my lower middle-class upbringing. I mentioned that my parents were terrible with saving money, and that we weren’t really taught to save either. That isn’t entirely true. We did have one person that tried to help us save money. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. 

Grandma’s Help

We got a small bit of help in learning to save from our Grandmother on our mom’s side. When we were born, she convinced my parents to open a savings account for us. She gave us a check on every birthday and Christmas with “for deposit only” written on it, so we would be forced to deposit it into our savings accounts. We had the option to deposit the rest of our birthday money as well, but we rarely did.

My grandma didn’t have a lot of money, so she was only able to give us each $25 on special occasions. Over time, that does add up, and by the time I started working for my parents, I had about $800 saved up. That’s a lot for a fifteen-year-old!

I Learned about taxes the hard way

Unfortunately, the savings account didn’t work out the way my Grandmother intended. You see, when my parents started paying us for delivering papers, they set us up as independent contractors rather than wage employees. That meant that no taxes would be taken out of our paychecks. We didn’t make a lot of money, but as we all know, that doesn’t matter. The IRS still needs to get their share.

When tax season rolled around that first year, my father did our taxes for us. We each ended up owing the man around $700. My parents took us to the bank and drained our savings accounts so we could pay our taxes. They said we should have known better. We should have been putting money aside each pay check to pay. How we were supposed to know the subtleties of the complicated tax code at age 15, I’ll never know!

 

Making it worse

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson. I continued working for my parents as an independent contractor, and continued spending all of each pay check. When tax season rolled around, I just ignored it. I did the same thing the following year. Eventually, I stopped working for my parents and got a normal part time job. Unfortunately, by this time, I already owed the IRS almost two thousand dollars. Even worse, my father accidentally switched mine and my brother’s social security numbers on our tax returns, so we didn’t even know who owed what!

Digging out of the hole

I was a senior in high school when I realized how big my problem with the IRS was. That’s when I decided to take steps to dig my way out. Surprisingly, it was super easy to get the mess with the social security numbers straightened out. But what was even more shocking was that they were really nice about helping me set up a payment plan and get the tax debt straightened out. They are super willing to work with people who are trying to do the right thing!  It took me about a year to fully pay off my debt to the IRS, but it felt good to make that last payment.

 

Lessons learned

Learning about taxes the hard way had some advantages. I learned to always think about how taxes will work with any job, so I don’t get surprised with a giant bill at the end of the year. I also learned that the IRS isn’t as terrible as everyone thinks they are. One of the reasons I waited so long to call and get it taken care of is that I was terrified of calling them!  All I ever heard was horror stories about going to jail for tax fraud and IRS agents being super rude to people. Maybe it was my age that helped, or maybe it was the fact that I was actually trying, but every time I called, the agent was super nice and helpful. I never had a bad experience.

One final thing I learned is to always check over all the important forms.  One little mistake can cause huge complications down the road (on the plus side, I still have my brother’s SSN memorized, because I thought it was mine for so long…devious, I know!).

What lessons did you learn the hard way?  I’d love to hear your stories!

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"lower middle class"

Sometimes people see a personal finance blogger striving for financial independence and think that we must have grown up with well-off or financially savvy parents. Well, that isn’t always the case. I’d classify my parents as lower middle class and let’s just say I didn’t learn any positive financial skills from them!

I know that a lot of people had things way worse than me. It’s also true that I got extremely lucky with a few of my choices; and a lot of people who make similar choices may not have the same luck. However, I think it’s fair to point out that you don’t have to come from rich parents who are good with money to get on a quest for financial independence (though I’m sure it helps!)

Growing Up Lower Middle Class

I honestly don’t know what my household income was when I was younger. My parents owned a home in the South suburbs of Chicago, we always had food to eat, we got nice Christmases, and we went on vacation (camping) a few times per year. Seems solidly middle class, right? However, we did live across the street from some pretty terrifying apartments that had cops patrolling more often than not.  I’m also pretty sure our neighbor across the alley got busted for dealing LSD. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was far from the worst. We could play outside without fear as long as we stayed away from the apartments, which is a luxury a lot of kids didn’t have.

When I was very little, my father worked as an insurance agent. He sold insurance in Chicago’s terrifying ghettos (shameless plug, but he wrote a fictionalized account of his experiences, Check it out on Amazon!). This job didn’t make him well off, but he made enough money to support the family. 

 

Dad Loses his Job

Unfortunately, when I was still in grade school, my father lost his job with the insurance company. My parents turned to delivering papers to make a living. My siblings and I had to do paper routes three days a week after school to help them make ends meet. For the first few years, this was unpaid labor. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was being forced to work for free, but I get it now. They needed the free labor to keep up with the bills. We were working to support the family.

To my parent’s credit, they were able to take what they learned delivering papers for someone else and make a business out of it. They started hiring more neighborhood kids to deliver papers for them, and they started paying us for the work that we did.

No Savings

Unfortunately, even with running their own business, there wasn’t a lot left to save at the end of each month. Or maybe my parents prioritized vacations and nice Christmases over emergency funds and retirement accounts. Either way, they had no savings.  They spent most of the money they made each month and allowed us kids to do the same. If we wanted something super expensive, they would tell us that we needed to save up on our own for it (my brother was obsessed with getting Scottie Pippen shoes, so he was the best about that!) but that was really the extent of our lessons in savings.

A Divorce

My parents got divorced when I was in high school. My dad kept the business and was able to rent a home from his sister while my mom basically had nothing. After our family home was foreclosed on she had to go live up north near her parents. To be honest though, their divorce kind of worked out in my favor. It’s way easier to get loans for college if you are a child of divorced parents with low incomes.  I got enough financial aid money to pay for my entire college education (via loans and grants, mostly). I didn’t use all of it, because I decided to join the Reserve Officers Training Core (ROTC) when I got to college, which helped pay for a lot of my schooling (My first great financial decision!)

15 years later

Even now, neither of my parents is good with money. I don’t think either of them has a retirement plan or a solid emergency fund. They both work, and I think both of them plan to just continue working until they can’t anymore.

My siblings and I learned very different things from this upbringing. My brother learned that he can get by with working until he dies. He doesn’t worry about saving money and values spending everything he earns on making sure his kids are happy (Just like my parents did). My sister was the same for a very long time.  She valued appearances and expensive things, because she didn’t want to feel poor.  However, in the last few years, through my obsession with financial independence, I have helped her learn the value of saving money for the future. She wants to pursue FIRE too!

I went the opposite way. I saw that my parents were just barely keeping their heads above water and decided that wasn’t what I wanted for my future. Therefore, I took it upon myself to learn financial literacy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way; but I think I’m getting there.

Financial Literacy

The point of this story is that learning financial literacy is not easy, but it can be done. It isn’t really taught in school (at least it wasn’t in my school!), and if you don’t grow up in an environment where it is practiced every day, it’s hard to grasp. However, that doesn’t make it unattainable.  It would have been great if my parents could have given me a head start on this, but they couldn’t. What I learned instead was the value of hard work, and that I didn’t want to be destitute in the future. These were valid lessons too, and I’m glad I got them.

What did your parents teach you about money? Let us know in the comments!

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"cosigning"

Today I’m writing a cautionary tale for all my readers (because it’s too late for me!). As you know from reading about the Worst Financial Decision of my Life, I cosigned on a car for someone when I probably shouldn’t have. But unfortunately for me (and please learn from my mistakes!) this wasn’t the only time I’ve cosigned. I haven’t even only done it twice. I’ve cosigned for stuff on three separate occasions!  And to be honest, I’m probably going to do it again (because obviously I don’t learn).

The First Time I Cosigned

My first experience cosigning came about 11 years ago. I cosigned on a type of student loan for my then boyfriend. We were getting ready to move from Illinois to California, and we didn’t have a lot of money. He was just getting ready to start college, and we found a student loan program that would give us cash for tuition and expenses. He couldn’t qualify on his own, so I cosigned.

I actually don’t regret this one. We were together and we needed the money. Having this loan really helped us survive during our first year in California. I am a bit annoyed that it’s been 11 years and we’ve only paid about 6K on the loan, but it is what it is. On the plus side, we still get along well and we are working together to pay it off.

Cosigning my life away for family

I don’t really regret the second time I cosigned either, even though I had to pay a bit more than I intended. I helped my brother buy his house. He is terrible with finances (most of my family is) and has horrible credit, but he makes decent money.  His wife has decent credit but works a low paying job. He could afford the mortgage, but with his credit he couldn’t qualify.

I have a little niece and nephew who mean the world to me. They are adorable little kids and I wanted them to have a house to grow up in. I also love my brother, he was my best friend for the first 16 years of my life. I want him and his family to be happy. So, I agreed to cosign. However, I only agreed under the stipulation that I would be co-owner, not just cosigner. This is a very important distinction, as it means I have ownership stake in the house; whereas if I was just a cosigner I would be financially liable but I wouldn’t be part owner.

My brother swore up and down that he would always pay on time and he wouldn’t do anything to hurt my credit. He promised not to screw me over. My brother may be a jerk sometimes (aren’t all brothers?) but he’s loyal to a fault and takes pride in keeping his word. So, I believed him.

How it screwed me

Unfortunately, his family fell a bit on hard times last summer, and he didn’t want to tell me that he missed a payment because he was planning on making it up in the coming months. It would only be behind by one month each month, so he didn’t think I would ever know. He didn’t want me to know because he didn’t want me to be disappointed in him.

Unfortunately for him, this was around the time when I got the job offer for Savannah. That meant I was selling my house and buying a new one, yay!

 

Imagine my surprise when I applied for a mortgage and was told that my other mortgage was thirty days behind. That’s not something you want to hear!  I was livid!  I called my brother and cursed him out like crazy. My sister had my back, she did the same.  He apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again. I had to pay the one month that he was behind; because I wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage if I waited for him to pay it. I told my brother not to pay me back, but also to not let it happen again.

So of course, it happened again. I checked my credit score in January, and the mortgage was late again. He gave me some lame excuse about the homeowner’s insurance being wrong so they weren’t paying because they were trying to get it fixed. To his credit, he paid right after I called him out, so I guess he was telling me the truth (at least about having the money). It’s been a few months and I haven’t seen a late notice yet, so hopefully he will keep up with it.

The Third (and Worst Time) I Cosigned

I’ve told this story before (remember, the worst financial decision?). The third time I cosigned was on a car for Jonathan. Yeah, lets’ sign my life away to someone who I know is an alcoholic with absolutely no financial literacy. Great Plan Melanie! The good news is that I’m actually the primary on the account, and he’s the secondary so I do have some legal rights to the car.  He’s supposed to take over the payments starting in May, and if he doesn’t I’ll have to “recover” the car from him. I’ll let you all know how that one goes!

Why I’ll Cosign Again

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. But alas, I probably haven’t. My sister really wants to leave California for cheaper pastures. She’s also planning on taking my mom with her. They want to move someplace on the East Coast with a much lower cost of living. Great idea, right? Unfortunately, they suck with money too. My sister has terrible credit and owns her own business, so has very little income to show. My mom gets by. There is no way that they are going to be able to get a house on their own.

They are family. My sister has stood by me when pretty much everyone else I’ve known in my life turned their backs on me. My mom is my mom. I have to help them if I can. So, although I know cosigning is a terrible mistake, it’s probably one I’ll make again. On the plus side, at least cosigning for a house gives me assets. I’ve got that going for me, right?

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"the honeymoon phase"

Honeymoon Phase

As most of you fabulous readers know, I started seeing someone new about a month after Jonathan and I broke up. Well good news! The relationship is fantastic so far! We are super compatible and have a great time together. I’m definitely enjoying the Honeymoon Phase of this new relationship and loving my life in general.

Problem

This is the problem. I am actually happy! And I want to spend all my time with my new guy. This really isn’t a problem for my life, but it is a problem for the blog. It makes it harder for me to find the time to write. I also am struggling to find time to promote and market the blog. I’m doing the best I can to juggle all of these priorities (I’ve even managed to mostly stick to my Thursday and Sunday posting schedule, woot!) but having a happy life has to come first.

Yes, we met on OKC!

 

Why wasn’t this a problem before?

I was able to throw all of my free time into blogging before because I wasn’t happy. The blog was all I had. My relationship sucked, but I felt stuck. He was cool with the blog, so I could get away with focusing most of my time on it. It made things at home easier too, because I was able to do something and not have to deal with him. Blogging was an escape. It’s way harder to focus on the blog when I’m enjoying the company around me so much. First world problems.

Related: The Worst Financial Mistake of My Life

Why not drop the blog?

I still love it! And I believe in it. I love the concept of Partners in Fire, and I love all the friends I have made in the blogging world. I love the Personal Finance Community on Twitter, and I also love the blogging community. I don’t want to give any of that up!  Also, I’m a realist. I know that this is the honeymoon phase, and that honeymoon phases don’t last forever (it would be kind of nice if they did though, wouldn’t it?).

Who remembers being in a new relationship?  Its so much fun and so exciting that you want to spend every waking moment just hanging out and getting to know each other. But then, after three to six months, as you get more comfortable with one another and start sliding into each other’s lives; things kind of settle down. You fit into each other’s lives and it just becomes right to have them around and also do your own thing. Maybe I’m the only one this happens to, but it seems completely normal to me!

What’s Next?

Moving forward, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to focus on blogging, because it makes me happy; but I’m also going to focus on my life and my relationship because they make me happy too. I have a lot of balls in the air right now to juggle, but I think with a little effort and a little less tv I can learn to prioritize them all and regain a sense of balance in my life. Either way, I’m going to enjoy myself while I do it!

Who out in the blogger sphere has advice about juggling new relationships, blogging, life, and a full-time job? I could use your tips!

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"hidden costs"

Houses are expensive! The median home price in the United States is about $200,000 (Median is a better number to use than average, because it takes away the crazy expensive outliers). That’s a lot of money! But unfortunately, that’s only the upfront cost of buying a home. Make sure you factor these 10 hidden costs of buying a house into your budget!

Hidden Costs of Buying a House

Moving

Do you remember when everything you owned fit into your small two door sedan? I remember that too. I don’t know how I acquired so much stuff, but it most definitely did not fit in a sedan (or an SUV for that matter!). I did downsize a whole lot, so I just used a small pod to move everything that I didn’t want to throw away. The small pod cost me nearly three thousand dollars! Granted, I did move to the opposite side of the country, so that gets a bit pricey, but even moving across town will cost you.

Furniture

Are you going to buy new furniture to go with your new home? If you are moving your furniture, do you have enough to fill the new house? When you go from an apartment or condo to a single-family home, you generally have a lot more space to fill up. And it’s not just furniture! You will need shower curtains (I learned that the hard way!), area rugs, lamps, décor, and all the other items that make a house a home. My first trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond after buying a new house cost me upwards of a thousand dollars! Granted, I hardly took anything with me when I moved, but it is still something to be aware of and to budget for.

Are you a realtor who wants to provide the best experience for your clients? Check out ClickyHomes!*

Closing Costs

Closing costs aren’t exactly hidden costs, but they are expensive and it’s definitely not something that everyone considers when buying a home. Closing can cost up to 10% of the price of your home!  I paid about ten thousand dollars to close on my house. This includes attorney fees, the first home inspection, escrow fees, and bunch of other miscellaneous things that all the companies involved in closing charge you for. You need to budget for this huge expense at closing so you aren’t caught off guard.

Warranty

Unless you are buying a brand-new home (which usually comes with a warranty) you should definitely look into purchasing a home warranty at closing. In my area, the top- level warranty costs about five hundred dollars. It covers plumbing, electrical, appliances, and anything that goes wrong with the house for the first year. It offers piece of mind.

I’m really glad I got the warranty with my house, because about 3 months after purchasing it, I had a pretty serious leak. I called the warranty company who hooked me up with a plumber; and I was able to fix the problem without having it affect my insurance.

Insurances

Speaking of insurance…homeowner’s insurance is a must have when financing a home. Usually, your lender will discuss the approximate costs of this with you well before you sign the final paperwork. But homeowner’s insurance might not be the only insurance that you need.

Did you know that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover floods or earthquakes? If you are purchasing a home in a flood zone, you will be required to purchase the FEMA flood insurance. Even if you aren’t in a flood zone, with all the crazy weather we’ve been having these past few years, flood insurance might not be a bad idea. You never know when that freak storm will dump 40 inches of rain on you. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may also want to consider earthquake insurance. 

Renovations

If you are buying your absolute dream house, you may not have to worry about renovations. But most houses have at least some minor cosmetic issues that you will want to improve upon. The house I bought had hideous carpet and paint. These were super easy fixes, but they were definitely something that I needed to include in my budget.

Related: Check out these helpful tips for home buyers!

Inspections

I already mentioned the house inspection when I was talking about closing costs, but did you know that there are numerous other inspections you can get that aren’t included in your closing?  One of the most important additional inspections you should look into getting is a termite inspection. Nobody wants to buy a house only to learn that it’s been eaten away by these voracious pests. It’s much easier to prevent termites than it is to get rid of them when they are established.

HOA

Are you going to live in a community with an HOA?  Sometimes, there is no way around it. Pretty much all of the homes I looked at in Savannah had some sort of HOA. Some of the fees are outrageous! I looked at one house where the HOA fees were almost 300 bucks a month!  To be fair, that neighborhood had amazing amenities, but I wasn’t looking to pay that much. The HOA fee in my current neighborhood is only forty bucks a month, which is way more reasonable.

HOA fees aren’t always bad. Having an HOA helps to maintain the property values. Many of them also offer a club house or a pool. However, be sure to think about the monthly fee before committing to a mortgage payment.

 

Taxes

Ah taxes. One of the few certainties in life. We all know that property taxes are a thing that need to be paid; but the cost can be a surprise. Make sure that you speak to your lender about estimated property taxes before you agree on a purchase. Most lenders will include them in your total monthly bill, but some will only show you the total for the principle and interest. These customers are then shocked when they receive a monthly bill that’s two or three hundred dollars more than they expected.

Related: Check out the one thing I wish my realtor had!

Services

Owning a home is a lot of work. And there are a lot of things that you need to consider once you have one. Do you live in the South? Yeah, you’re gonna need an exterminator. Do you live anywhere near a city?  You’re probably gonna need a security system. You are also going to need to set up your trash, water, sewer, and utility services. And some cities don’t even include fire protection as part of the property taxes, you have to pay for it separately (WTF Savannah??). These are all things you will need to consider and budget for when purchasing a new home.

Bonus!

Miscellaneous expenses – because stuff always comes up. Always! Make sure you have an extra one to two thousand dollars set aside for that one thing that no one warned you about. Because it will come up, eventually.

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