Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting Money Back-Moving

When BF and I moved out of the old apartment, we did the things you usually do in hopes of getting back my full $500 deposit. We cleaned like fiends, basically. Patched holes in the walls, scrubbed, soaked, and deep-cleaned the place. I think we did a pretty good job, so I am hoping for almost the full deposit back.

The other way I hoped to get some funds back is in my July rent. We had to pay for the whole month, but we were actually completely out of the apartment by July 7th. So, I emailed my landlord and asked if she could pro-rate the rent for us. She said that if she found someone to move in before the end of July, she would be willing to refund our rent for those days. SCORE!

I helped her along by posting the Craigslist ad on my Facebook, showing the apartment while I was still living there, and of course cleaning the place so that it would show well. And on Tuesday I found out that our efforts paid off: the apartment was rented and the new move-in date is the 20th! So, we will be refunded most of the deposit (I always expect a little to be taken off) plus ten days of rent! YES!

That money is going straight back into my Emergency Fund, since that's what I used to pay the deposit on this apartment. That will put me only $500 away from a completely stocked E-fund!

So, I encourage you to be assertive with your landlord when moving. She wouldn't have offered, but when I asked, she was willing to work with me, and it paid off!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Market Research...Cha-ching!

A few weeks ago I was walking out of the Whittier Public Library when a woman and I made eye-contact. She asked, "Do you live in this area?" I had a moment of panic, because I grew up here and just moved back. I thought she might ask for directions, and that's not my strong-suit to begin with. :/ I said yes, hesitantly. She then asked if I would be interested in doing some paid market research on July 17th. She also said, "It pays $300."

WHAT?! Hell yes I am interested! So, she asked me several questions to see if I qualified, and then gave me a letter with the info. I had to go to LA, arriving by 8:00. The session went until 6:30. I would be paid in cash as I left and provided with lunch.

I looked up the organization to make sure it was legit, and according to Yelp reviews, it was. So, on Tuesday I headed out at 6:45 and attended. I signed a confidentiality agreement, so all I can say is that it was on local issues. We watched presentations and filled out questionares. At the end of the day, they put us in groups to discuss the issues while the watched and videotaped us. It was a long day, but the topic was fairly interesting. It's not how I'd want to spend every day, but when they handed me an envelope with $300 cash in it, it definitely felt worth it!

So, what am I going to do with the money?
$50=Desk for second bedroom from Walmart. I already bought this and put it together.
$50=Mac eyeshadow kit. My friend Rene works for Mac and got me to pre-order this item.
$100=New work clothes. I got rid of a few ancient pairs of pants and need some new shirts, so I'm going to start rebuilding with $100 at the outlets (I love you, Banana Republic Outlet).
$100=Vacation! We leave on our massive road trip next week, so I stashed $100 away to take on the trip.

I thought about putting some of it into savings, but I actually feel good about how I split up the money. I think it's a good mix, and since this month was VERY expensive, with moving and all, this couldn't have come at a better time.

I emailed the woman who recruited me, told her how much I enjoyed participating, and that I would love to be a part of more studies if she needs people. Fingers crossed she calls me again!

Have you ever done market research for money? Was it worth it?

Friday, July 6, 2012

So, About Being Debt Free

A few posts back I casually mentioned that I paid off my student loans and am 100% debt free. I did it in the midst of some other posts, and after a long-ish absence, so I thought I'd go back and write a bit about it, and reflect on how far I've come.

I was able to pay off the last chunk of my student loan because as a National Board Certified Teacher in LAUSD, I am able to earn money for additional hours of professional development (both as a leader and a learner) each year. This is money on top of my regular check and is part of the incentive to get the certification. (Alas, my new district does not participate, but hopefully they won't lay me off every year either). When I got that extra chunk of money, I decided to go ahead and just pay off my entire student loan amount and be done with it all at once.

Honestly, there wasn't the fanfare I felt when I paid off my credit cards or my car loan. I think  in part because I don't have any regrets about my student loans, and they never bothered me as much as my other debt. Also, I didn't entirely plan to pay them off that day, so it didn't have the build-up that the other debt payoffs had. To top it all off, I was/am going through HUGE transitions right now-laid off, new job, moving, etc.

Don't get me wrong; it feels pretty great to be debt free. But I guess I thought there would be more glee or jumping up and down than there actually was. I do occasionally think, "I am debt free." And it always brings a little smile to my face.

I did some number crunching, and from what I have figured, I have been on this journey to be financially responsible for 31 months (two and a half years). In that time, I have paid off approximately $28,000 of debt to become debt-free. I've also saved almost a three month E-fund, 25% of a house down payment, put money in a Roth IRA for seven months in a row, and increased my funding to my 403(b).

I got super serious about budgeting, tracking every cent I spend. I was really intense in the beginning, and have relaxed as I've gotten out of my high-interest consumer debt. I still took vacations during this time, and prioritized for the things that are important to me.

I remember taking Financial Peace University and hearing that it takes most people two to three years to pay off all their debt if they get gazelle-intense. That seemed like FOREVER. But, I have to say that being on the other side, it doesn't seem so long.

So, am I excited about being debt free? A little. But I think the better word to describe it is proud. I am proud that I did what it took to get here. That I worked hard for it, changed my patterns and habits, and became a financially responsible person. And that's even better than giddy, short-term excitement.