Ever since I was a kid I’ve been very goal oriented and weirdly motivated by the endorphin rush that comes from checking something off my to do list. So it should come as no surprise I enjoy this time of year — reflecting back on what goals I accomplished the past year, kicking myself with a few face punches (metaphorical) for the ones I didn’t, and looking ahead and making lots and lots of lists for the coming year.
2015 was a mixed year for me, though I would say I leave it with a sense of generally pretty spectacularly amazeballs awesome — overall, financially, it was a very solid year, though not without some important lessons. Personally, it couldn’t have been better — Sweetie Pie moved closer to me after being in a different city for two years; I traveled a lot and saw many, many old friends; I started to feel like my house is becoming my home; and I started exploring all sorts of new pursuits outside of work (like this blog!), and somehow managed to achieve some balance of not feeling perpetually “busy” (I chalk that one up to good old fashioned gratitude!). Professionally, however, last year was a disappointment — I had some tough days at work and have been embroiled in some deep soul searching about where I might want to go next, how to get there, and the best recipe for lemonade in the meantime.
In trying to figure out how to balance my finances, I’ve often struggled with how much is the right amount for an emergency fund. Should I save more in cash, or invest it? Should I pay off my mortgage faster, or save more? How much is enough for an emergency? How much is too much? Should I buy more cheese or less? One of those questions is easy to answer; the rest, not so much…
Woohoo! I am proud to report that my basement renovation is finally, totally, completely, almost done. There are just a couple of minor repairs (shaving off a door that can’t clear the new, plushy, cushy, awesome carpet and repairing a leaky toilet) and then hanging some pictures on the walls when my photo prints arrive in the mail.
I have been working my butt off recently on my mini basement renovation. So far, so good, but like many projects there are more moving pieces than I had included in my initial budget-and-agenda list. I suspect I may end up over my budgetary goal of $4,000, but I’m feeling confident that everything (so far, at least!) is worth it and that I’m making the most of my pennies.
The biggest ticket item is much-needed new carpet. I went the high end route from Home Depot — just under $2,000 including installation and removal of the old narsty stuff — and it should be here next week. What the duck, you can’t schedule installation until the carpet arrives at the installer warehouse, even when you know there’s a scheduled date, so who knows when it will actually be in, but hopefully soon.
I have to move out all furniture and wall decorations for the installation, so it’s a bit like a giant game of tetris. I’m trying to buy furnishings on Craigslist as I find good deals (and I’ve got some good ones!), but I can’t acquire too much because it all has to fit in the non-carpeted kitchen while the work gets done. I’m trying to balance that with the goal of getting it totally done as soon as possible after the carpet install, with a hoped-for-but-unlikely move-in date of October 1. Last-minute moving is going to be a physical and intellectual challenge!
In terms of the heavy-lifting work, I’ve been doing a lot of painting. A LOT of painting. So much I’m starting to think the t is superfluous and it should just be called paining. . . . Even the walls and ceilings I thought were OK start to look dingier the more time I spend staring at them (a lot, apparently) and I’ve created various blemishes of my own as I do things like removing ugly-butt track lighting from 1996, or buying $5 chairs on Craigslist that need 14 coats of spray paint. (Also, turns out I don’t know how to spray paint — hooray for learning new skills the hard way?) I keep reassuring my back, neck, and wrists that it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK, right?
Next up is some minor electrical work (repairing a loose outlet box, replacing the one hard-wired light fixture in an awkward “window” between the kitchen and living room), prayers for no major plumbing needs, making art for the walls, and almost-final furnishing acquisitions.
I’ve also put out some short-term lease feelers on Craigslist, but since I don’t know a certain ready date or budget, I’m wary to commit to too much. I’ve gotten several responses to my first ad a couple of weeks ago, so I’m thinking I’ll start again soon with a new posting, but it’s hard to motivate without final pictures . . . it turns out I seem to be most excited about final pictures! Here are some in-progress gems:
Three years ago I moved to Seattle and bought a house. For someone accustomed to tiny New York City studios and one-bedroom apartments, it’s HUGE — three bedrooms plus a separate two-bedroom basement apartment. (By normal standards, it’s normal — your typical Seattle 1902 pre-craftsman.)
I immediately rented one of the bedrooms upstairs to a dear friend of mine from grad school, Roomie Pie, and the basement apartment to two 30-something students at a nearby university. Roomie Pie is still around (yay!) and the students just decided to move out after graduating at the end of August.
I appreciate having the extra income, but I also love having more people around — an entire house of any size is way too much for just one person! But, feeling like I could never be so lucky to find as great tenants again, I’ve decided to take a risk and try a new experiment: update the apartment, furnish it, and try renting it out as a short-term rental. I live near several hospitals so I’m hoping to appeal to travel nurses, residents, or other professionals who might be in town for a few months at a time. I might also try AirBnB, though I’m reluctant to take on the work involved in weekly laundry and cleaning … need to make sure I can keep my lazy habits lazy!
I’m in the process of fixing it up, including new paint, lighting, and carpet (which I had hoped to avoid but was unquestionably necessary, thanks to an initial poor quality install and various rips, snags, and stains). My budget for everything is $4,000 and I’m hoping I’ll be able to make that up in a year — worst case scenario, if it doesn’t work, I’ll go back to a long-term tenant and hope for the best. In the meantime, I’m scouring Craigslist and Goodwill to see what gems I might find, and nurturing my back that’s already sore from too much painting.
There are some serious design challenges — low ceilings and poor lighting are the most obvious — as well as some great aspects, like several closets and a huge kitchen. I’m excited to see how it turns out — stay tuned!