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Archive for August, 2009

Budget Graph

August 20th, 2009 at 10:57 am

Thanks to gamecock for the idea, I used ChartTool to get a "visual" of our monthly expenses. Taxes are not included in this graph because it reflects how we spend our net income.

The "Misc." category includes:
~ spending allowance
~ clothing
~ prescriptions
~ entertainment
~ personal care
~ house cleaner
~ gifts
~ incidentals
~ anything and everything not accounted for elsewhere

The "Housing" and "Utilities" categories include expenses for both our CA condo and second home in ID. The "Travel Savings" category includes timeshare dues, prorated expenses for planned trips, airfare to ID, etc. Eating out about once or twice a week is included in "Groceries."

Funds needed for emergencies, home maintenance, eventual replacement of cars or appliances, repairs to rentals, etc., are taken from the "Savings" category. I like to keep this account padded because emergencies are as sure to come up as the daffodils in spring.

Rental Nightmare

August 9th, 2009 at 01:26 pm

We had to evict tenants that had been at one of our rentals for more than four years, and it has made me realize I may want to get out of the rental business altogether. We have never had to evict a tenant before and it is a very unpleasant experience even though I am not directly involved. It is especially distressing to me because the tenants had two young children and I feel very badly about the impact on the children.

In June we employed a property manager who is a "no nonsense" type of person. The tenants had been late paying their rent for the last year and a half, but they eventually paid. We even let them pay in two installments to help them but things only continued to deteriorate. Long story short, the tenants were three weeks late in June and did not pay in their July rent, so our manager gave them their three-day notice at the end of July and proceeded to evict them.

What is mind-boggling is that when the manager went to collect the rent, he found a person living there who was not on the lease (she said she was the sister of one of the tenants). This woman told the manager the tenants were on vacation on the Oregon coast. Beats me how you would go on vacation when you haven't even paid the rent. This was the straw that broke the camel's back, so we agreed to the eviction.

Well, the tenants are out and it looks as if we will need the entire month of August and possibly September to get the property rentable again. So far, the house needs new floors throughout, complete painting, major cleaning, and lots of minor repairs. The tenants left tons of garbage and unwanted items, not to mention they lived in filth.

Words cannot describe the stench and the dirt we encountered when we went to see for ourselves today. Their pets (unauthorized) soiled the carpets right down to the sub-floors. This environment is hazardous for children! The once-beautiful back yard is a weed patch and there are oil/grease stains in the garage and driveway.

Believe it or not, this backyard was once pristine and well-manicured with a lush lawn.


This is the sub-floor after the carpets were removed. The stains are from dog urine. The floors have to be treated and sealed before we can replace the carpets. All linoleum also has to be replaced due to gouges.


This is the space next to the refrigerator. The entire house is this dirty.


I am hoping we can get through this nightmare for under $10,000 including the two months of lost rent (assuming we get it rented by September 1). The security deposit will not even cover the cost of hauling the tenant's trash to the dump (broken washer, 12 tires, old CPU, broken desk, dog house, car parts, swing set, toys, etc.). Even if we decide to sell this house, we still have to clean and repair it. We DO NOT need the headache and expense!! To make matters worse, owning rentals gives us no tax advantage due to income limits, so why are we doing this?

Making Travel a Reality in Retirement

August 3rd, 2009 at 04:53 pm

When I decided to retire a year ago, I knew we could live more frugally in some ways but I also knew that travel would be a bigger expense, given that we'd have more time for it. And, after years of working hard and looking forward to retirement, it would be disappointing to have to limit travel due to lack of funds. So, to what extent would we be able to afford retirement travel? To figure this out, prior to retiring I analyzed our projected monthly expenses in relation to our retirement income. I included "travel" as a monthly expense.

For us, travel planning begins with reviewing our calendar and discussing where we'd like to go in the coming year. We take into account visits with family, work/volunteer schedules, other financial obligations, and timeshare options. In 2009, our travel plans have included Carmel, San Antonio, an Alaskan cruise, and a trip to Payette Lake in McCall, ID. Once we know when and where, I estimate expenses for airfare, hotels, meals, and excursions. That amount is prorated and I deposit a monthly amount to the savings account that holds travel funds.

Then I challenge myself to reduce the cost of our planned travel as much as possible. For example, our hotels in Carmel, San Antonio, and McCall were reserved through our timeshare, so aside from the annual dues, there was no hotel expense. The airfare for San Antonio was purchased with miles, so we paid only the airport taxes (~$20). The airfare to Seattle (departure port for cruise) was 50% off because I used my mileage card rewards.

For the Alaskan cruise, we received a "military discount" available to anyone who has ever served in the military, no matter when. We were eligible for the discount due to dh's service during the Vietnam War and this saved ~$500. A few days before the final payment was due, I called the cruise line and negotiated an additional savings of $240 plus $100 onboard credit. A few days before departure the cruise line called to see if we were interested in upgrading to a suite for a reasonable price and we did.

The effort to systematically save and reduce travel costs pays off because the travel fund is growing. I usually deposit any "windfalls" into this account. In 2010, we want to go to Machu Picchu and take a Hawaiian cruise, so I'm starting to plan and save for those already. Retirement travel is possible because we live a simple life with no debt (except for a small mortgage) and we carefully plan and save for each trip. We've always said travel would be a priority in our retirement and we definitely want to make hay while the sun shines.