Tag Archives: house

To Zillow or not to Zillow

One of the reasons I particularly love using Mint is the property value feature that shows the current value of my home and car.  The car value estimate is provided by KBB and the home value is provided by Zillow – known as a Zestimate.

I have been enjoying my Mint account for about 2 years now.  Every couple of months, I find new ways to learn about myself and my relationship with money through my spending and investing processes.  I am really grateful that this tool exists.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never known the value of my home.  Then I started watching the Zestimate on my Mint overview page.  And it was great to watch!

I didn’t care that the interweb naysayers talked about how artificially high or low the Zestimate was in relation to actual value. I had a number I could look at and hold on to.  Plus, my number was going up!  How could I not appreciate that? (I bought my home at the extreem high of the housing bubble and tumble like a house of cards immediately after.  It was only in the last 3 months that my house Zestimated at the amounted I paid for it – 10 years later!!!!)

Then last month happened.  In the last 30 days, I have lost $22,000 of the value of my Zestimate.  And  with the way the Zestimate is incorporated into Mint, it is actually a $22,000 decrease in my net worth.

Sigh.

I feel like I have been doing so many things right which would build up my net worth.  Yet, to have something upon which I have no influence come along and drag me down is a bummer. My home accounts for 1/3rd my net worth.

The truth is though, much like how my 401Ks rebounded in value after the very painful gutting during the recession, my home value may likely grow as well.  I just don’t like feeling teased.

Zillow – the frenemy.

What tool do you use to estimate your home’s value?  Zillow? Redfin? Another?

Thrifty Image

Planning for College…at 13 years old?

When I was in high school, I was clueless about the college process.  I had a vague notion that I would go.  I was in a college prep magnet school after all.  Everyone in my school was expected to go to college or university.  But I didn’t have a real vision of college.  Or what to do to prepare myself.  Or, how much it would cost.

Fortunately  I was a good standardized test taker and my SATs made me desirable to colleges.  But including my grades, not desirable enough to offer huge scholarships. My mother, God bless her, paid for the majority of my undergrad education.  I only had to take out a few small loans.

Ironically, I wound up working as a recruiter for colleges and universities once I graduated.  I educated high school students and families what to do to prepare themselves and their finances for college attendance.  And now, I want to use all that expertise to prepare Mirror Image.  And I want to do it too much.

Fortunately, when Mirror Image was in elementary school, she developed into a very bright student.  Loved learning, loved delighting her teachers and loved being the best student.  She was competitive. She carried the good grades into Middle School where she has been on the Honor Roll and Principal’s List and last week, was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.

If she wants to, she can parlay her natural abilities into high school success and eventual college scholarships.

This has made me a bit greedy strategic in my thinking.

I want a paid college experience for her soooo bad.  I want it soooo much that I am really pushing her to get the best possible grades, stay on the honor roll NO MATTER WHAT. And, I am going to push her to get an associates degree while in high school.  Our County offers this with the local community college – earning an A.A. while earning a high school diploma.

Only paying for 2 years of college (excluding any types of scholarships, of course) is a HUGE savings.  Plus, it allows us to invest more in advance degrees, which she will likely need, if she continues to love the idea of a career in STEM.

But she doesn’t quite appreciate my nagging enthusiasm.  That is because she is not mother of a lovely bright daughter paying the mortgage, supporting an excitable destructive German shepherd dog, currently replacing the hot water heater (more on that in another post) who now knows the value of stretching yourself a bit more for big payoffs at the end.

I think when she is a mom of a genius, she will appreciate me then.

Don’t you?

Question – How early do you think families should start the college planning process?

Thrifty Image

Purchase, Purchase

I Love Shopping Picture

I have made it a point to be very intentional in my purchasing the last 2-3 years.  I run the usual investigative questions through my mind for most purchases – Do I really need it?  Why do I want it?  Do I already have something like it? How will I feel about it in the near future?  Do I have room for it? Will it really make my life better?

With these questions, I have been successful in a 2+ year handbag shopping ban and a clothes shopping ban for 5 months.  But, nature abhors a vacuum and some other interesting purchases have made it to the forefront.

I purchased a new phone last week.  I moved from a MOTO E from Republic Wireless to the MOTO G. I wanted to wait until they had a new selection that was similar to the MOTO X but my phone was dying by degrees.  I couldn’t even turn off the alarm in the mornings anymore — oh the horror!

I have discovered couponing!  I have LOTS of dish detergent, paper towels, hair products and vitamins.  I justify this shopping by letting couponing experts tell me I am saving money in the long run.  It must be a really looooog run because my MINT account is going crazy. You should see the notifications I am getting about the Shopping category.

With the exception of a few items that I only picked up because they were free, I know that I will use all the products personally or as goody bag stuffers. But I recognize the truth.  I just wanted to try something new and I wanted to SHOP.  I did a good thing by implementing shopping bans.  I did poor follow through by not replacing the shopping activity with a healthier option.

Now that my eyes are open, I am beginning a new plan. I will take full advantage of the soon to be nice weather and focus in on our garden work. Usually on gardening days I am too tired to want to do anything else anyway and that is just the way I like it.

I also plan to pick up some inside tasks.  Junior wants to paint her room and some of her furniture and that is definitely a distraction.  Her favorite colors at this moment are grays, blacks and whites. Should be interesting.

Oh yeah and I plan to eat more.  Not exactly the usual goal that is written but what can I say?  I am at an age where I finally enjoy trying new recipes, have learned a reasonable substitute for Cream of Tarter and no longer care about my weight in relation to popular culture.  A healthy enough weight is fine with me.

So there.  I am putting down my coupon clippers  and picking up my garden shears. It’s time for some growth.

The Thrifty Image

Weekend Money #6

Penny

 

 

The radio station Mirror Image makes me listen to on the way to school showcased its Friday Remix this morning.  I know what that means…

That means the weekend is here and it is time to plan the money!

I am going to pre-spend here on this post, then reconcile on Monday.  I plan for this to be another avenue of accountability and budgeting.  So here we go:

  • Church (tithes/offering) = $328
  • Gas = $25
  • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
  • Groceries = $5
  • Dollar Tree = $0
  • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
  • Clothes Shopping = $0
  • Gifts = $0
  • Restaurant = $0
  • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
  • Prescriptions = $35
  • Fun Outing = $10
  • Total = $403

 Church (tithes & offering) – 2 Corinthians 9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Groceries – There is snow in my area so we went grocery and snack shopping last night, just in case.  Unfortunately, due to the new converts shoppers, Aldi hasn’t had avocados the last 2 times I shopped there.  I am going tonight to pick some up as the cashier shared that a truck was coming today. I spent $48.39 there last night. Note to the world, even at Aldi, green bell peppers and quinoa are pricey items.

Gas – We may be saying good-bye to the low gas prices of the last 2 weeks.  In fact this past Monday through Wednesday, I watched the gas prices increase 10 cents each day at one particular station. If I go tonight, I might still make my maximum spend goal.

Dollar Tree – I have coupons for Clorox items and I have been hearing of some at the Dollar Tree.  Specifically, I want the wet refills for the Swiffer.  If I can find them, I plan to stock up.

Restaurant – I will not.  I shall not.

Prescriptions – Still need to get those…

Fun – Tonight we are going, as a surprise to Mirror Image, to enjoy Brahms’ German Requiem.  The tickets were free with an $8.50 service for each  I already purchased these through Groupon. We will take the train downtown and will probably have a soda at intermission.  The $10 should cover this.

The rest of the weekend should involve home organizing, walking Thrifty Pooch, baking more white chocolate chips cookies, finishing up a book report,  enjoying free movies from the Library and prepping vegetarian meals for the week ahead.  These activities are all FREE, FREE, FREE!

I will be back on Monday to tally up my successes (or fails).

Thrifty Image Mirror

Procrastination and Finances

Procrastinators Unite Tomorrow

I spent a lot of money and time in February getting some areas of my home organized.  My bathroom closet, craft and laundry supplies cabinets and new spice drawer are now functioning in a way that makes my time spent in those situations much better.  I will admit when I checked my Mint account and tallied how much I spent, I was a little affronted. That did not last long. I used money, in this case wisely and frugally, to achieve more peace in my home.  I am pretty sure that should be in the Top 10 of what money is to be used for.

That being said, by diving into home organization, I completely stalled on some other goals that I had planned for myself by the end of February.  March 1 is bringing a reckoning…

Below is a list of goals that I have put off and my musings as to why:

Finalize my will and trust and have notarized

  • Not done because I will obviously live forever
  • Not done because the notary I plan to use is a co-worker and she is out on short-term disability not to return until March 7. There are no other notary public in the world (even though I am a licensed one myself and have access to a listing of notaries).

Move my funds from current accounts to a Betterment account that I created A YEAR AGO

  • Not done because I have not had time (although I did start a blog, organize several areas of my home and caught up on the entire first season of Legends and The Expanse in that same year)

Reach out to a handyman service to arrange for attic project (clean and insulate)

  • Not done because of being genuinely perplexed as to what to do with all the items that are in the attic while the project is getting done.  The attic is huge and anything that comes done will overflow any space downstairs that is is temporarily relocated to.  Plus, I don’t want all that stuff to go back upstairs anyway.
  • Not done because because it is an $1100 commitment to pay the handyman for the project. I am hesitant.

Move Mirror Image’s College Fund from the current account to the Maryland 529 College Plans 

Not done because I haven’t gotten an answer on monthly contributions which takes into account the fund to fund transfer.  The website tool, while helpful, doesn’t completely answer this.

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” ~ William James

None of these are good excuses.  Just excuses. So, while February has finished a little light on certain goal accomplishment, many other goals were accomplished and March is giving me a new opportunity.  I anticipate the following mixture of financial and non-financial goals to be accomplished in March:

  1. Make dentist appointment
  2. Contact and pay handyman service for attic clean-out
  3. Have trust and will notarized
  4. Finalize Maryland 529 application and start the funds transfer process*
  5. Travel to Orlando for a work conference
  6. Spring clean in advance of having family over for Easter dinner

And, by the way, I am doing a 30 day vegetarian challenge this month, too.  I anticipate this will be the best March ever!

Thrifty Image Mirror

 

*I want to transfer funds from the current account to get the State tax deduction as well as to be able to see this account on Mint. Currently, the Private College 529 is not supported by Mint.