Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Planning Stage

Four days in to March and and I haven't spent any money on extras yet.  Only 27 days to go.  Unfortunately, my truck battery is dead and I need to renew my passport soon.  Technically, I could put both of those things off for another month but I probably shouldn't.  I've been researching the permitting process for my county.  I don't know who makes up their website but I would only give it a 5 out of 10 for User Friendly.  I do know that I need:

-a permit application
-a site plan with utilities, elevations, and set-backs marked
-building plans
-possibly a grading plan

I hope that is it.  I got basic plans for a 24'x24' building with loft off of the internet.  The county assessor has a map of my property that I can print.  I still need to call Blue Stake to come out and mark my utilities.  I meet with the excavator tomorrow to get a quote on the earthworks.  This is all going so slowly.  Sometimes I think I should just buy a manufactured home and be done with it.  But do I want to pay $60k for the cheapest basic particle board and vinyl box?  Not really and I'm not willing to pay for the upgrades.  I guess I will just keep plugging along.  This is the planning stage anyway.  There isn't much to see yet but there will be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marching Forward

Marching...get it?  Because it is March?  Oh boy.  I met my handyman out at my property on Saturday morning.  He was very enthusiastic about my plan and had ideas to do things better and easier.  I've had people come out to give me bids and most of them either don't get back to me or make the bid so high that it was obvious that they didn't want the job.


My mother has offered to lend me the money to build a guest house.  She doesn't want me to put a lot of money in to the old mobile home.  My first thought was how much longer would I have to work to pay her back?  I figured it would add 1 year to my plan.  Building something has always been an option but I figured I would wait until after the house was paid off and then see how I felt about working longer in order to upgrade my living arrangements.  I was thinking along the lines of a 10'x20' shed that I would turn in to a tiny house but with my nephew returning (I'm 80% sure he will return in July) I need something a little bigger so now I am looking at a 24'x24' guest house.  It would be 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, with an open kitchen/living room.  I helped my dad build a garage/shop back in 1994.  My parents made an apartment out of the garage and lived there while they built the main house.

My first thought was to call the shed/garage builders since their website said they could build a 24'x24' garage for $23,000.  Unfortunately, they said they were booked for the next 6 months and weren't taking any garage orders.  I told this to my handyman and he said that if I got the permits, he could build it for me.  Getting permits has always been a scary and mysterious thing to me.  I guess if I really want this, I need to face my fears and figure out the process.  I mean, I'm a drafter, after all.  It shouldn't be too hard for me to make a site plan.  I already looked up the zoning, 20' from the property line and 30' from other structures.  I might buy the garage plans off the internet but we will see.  I need to do more research.  If I do this right, I think I will be able to finish the guest house cheaper than hiring the shed company to just build the shell.  Of course, I will make lots of mistakes.  I read that if you want to build a house, build a garage first so that you learn from your mistakes.  Well, I only need one guest house so I'll just have to try to learn from other people's mistakes.

While I am working on the permits, the handyman will be doing a few improvements to the mobile home like adding a door on the north side for easier access, covering the floor with plywood, and replacing the skirting (the first step for snake prevention).  The next project is to make a secure yard for the dogs.  I'm thinking about a 3' block wall with chain link on top of that.  Coincidentally, my co-worker just messaged me and asked if I knew anyone who needed 50' of chain link. I do, I do!  Although rattlesnakes can climb a 3 foot wall if motivated, I am hoping that blocking the pack rats with the new skirting will eliminate any motivation.  Diamondback rattlesnakes are quite lazy.  They tend to go under things rather than over in my experience.  I also need to keep out coyotes, javelina, and roaming neighbor dogs.  I hope to surround a large portion of my property in field fence some day.

And another thing, the excavator guy called me on Saturday and wants to meet at the property on Thursday afternoon to see what needs to be done.  I'm hoping he can level off a building site for me as well as fix my driveway.  I fear I will need some time off work for all of these projects which means I need to slow down the dog fostering because vet appointments interfere with work too.  My handyman can't get started until I meet him at Home Depot to buy the door, plywood and skirting material.  I just took 2 days off last week and I don't want to fall behind at work.  I'll make it all work though.  It's going to take some juggling but progress is being made, finally!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mortgage Update for February 2015

Whew!  It was a wild weekend.  My sister came to visit with her seven kids and they all stayed at my house.
 It is great to have a house big enough to accommodate them all.  I told her that in a few years I would be moving out to my property and they could all camp there but she wasn't very enthusiastic about that idea.  Something about snakes and scorpions...  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I took Monday and Tuesday off so that I could hang out with them.  It was not fun to go to work today and face my long list of urgent email.

Since it is the end of the month, I made my February extra mortgage payment.  $1,200 extra brings the total to $46,798.  2 years and 8 months to go.  Only 2 years to go if I can start paying $1,600 extra but everything has to go perfectly.  And speaking of not going perfectly, I received an email tonight from my property management company.  My tenants are leaving in May and the management company is going to start showing the house to new tenants.  My current tenants were great.  They always paid on time.  I hope my next tenants are just as responsible and stay for many years.  And I hope I don't have a dreaded VACANCY for months.  That would be terrible.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Not a Frugal February

February is turning out to be a very expensive month.  I decided that I would pay the $1,000 that I owe in taxes with the interest that I made on my mutual fund ($500) and raid $500 from my property fix-it fund.  Ok, that was fine as long as nothing else went wrong this month.  Then on Monday, when I turned on the heater in the car, I smelled antifreeze.  I had smelled it before when the heater was on but I kept forgetting to check under the hood when I got home from work because I didn't need the heater in the afternoon.  Finally, I wrote it down because I was going to visit my mother on Tuesday and it would be convenient to drop my car off at the shop if it needed it.  Well, I opened the hood and there was green liquid on the engine and the coolant level was low.  sigh.  So, the next day I dropped the car at the mechanic for the forth time in 4 months and my mom and I went to visit dad at the nursing home.  It was his birthday and one of the staff bought him a giant chocolate cupcake and I put together some happy birthday posters from family members.  He seemed to appreciate it and he really enjoyed the cupcake.

Today, I heard back from the mechanic.  Now it needs a new radiator.  Total parts and labor $650.  My cheap car is not as cheap as I thought.  I already spent $750 for a new motor mount, thermostat and hoses.  I don't understand why the whole cooling system fell apart.  I would love to know if the mechanic missed all of these broken parts or they really broke in succession.  I certainly hope this fixes the problem and I don't have any more issues for at least a year.  Of course, that's what I said last time too.

So, where to get the money?  I was REALLY looking forward to putting $1,600 extra towards the mortgage next week but I can only do that if nothing goes wrong that month.  I am already using the interest and borrowing some of the property money to pay taxes so I can't use that money.  I could try to not spend any extra money for the next 3+ months and scrape $200 a month out of my budget but no more unexpected expenses could come up or it wouldn't work.  I think the only sensible thing to do is take $400 out of the extra mortgage money and then try to make it through March without any extra spending which will give me the other $250.  It is disappointing but putting an extra $1,200 towards the mortgage is still awesome.  I will get it paid off eventually.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Favorite Things: Dogs, Gardens, and Tiny Houses

Taxes are done, but not submitted.  I'll finish up next weekend and move on to filling out my nephew's financial aid paperwork.  It will be so nice to get both of those over with.  It was another lovely weekend.  Sunny on Saturday with a little rain on Sunday.

I have a new foster dog.  He was picked up by animal control with a gash across his eye.  The eye couldn't be saved so they sewed him up and he should be ready for adoption in a few weeks.  He's a friendly dog and housebroken, that's always a plus.  In a few days he will get the cone off his head and then he can meet my other dogs.  For now he stays in his puppy pen which is attached to each side of the door and I let him out in the side yard twice a day.

Besides taxes, I pulled more of the never-ending weeds and started cleaning up my garden.  It's going to be a little bit bigger this time so that I can move around in it without crushing plants.  I still need to buy top soil to cover the plant clippings, horse manure (from a friend) and pine kitty litter.  I would love to buy more bark mulch too to make things look pretty but that's not really a priority right now.  Then I will hook up a drip system and my garden will be so much easier to maintain than last year, at least, that's the idea.  If I end up moving to my property during the week so my nephew can ride the school bus then at least the garden will get watered.  My nephew has until April to decide where he is going to school next school year so I am still planning for either possibility.

I finally heard back from my handyman, the one who had an appendectomy, and he is back to work and going to call me to meet out at my mobile home sometime next week.  I was thinking about why I like my mobile home.  First of all, I like it because it is there.  It already exists and is taxed at a really low rate of around $100 a year as personal property.  I've heard that it would be taxes even less if it was legally 'attached' to the property.  Second, I can remodel it without worrying about bringing down the value or having to hire a professional to match the architecture.  I guess those are the 2 biggest reasons.

I found this blog last week about a tiny house on an island off of Washington.  Scott's Tiny House  I like his little house.  It would be too small for me with dogs but it is simple and reminds me of a really cool playhouse for big kids.  This is the kind of thing that would make my co-workers cringe but surprisingly, my boss would think it was cool too although he wouldn't want to live in it.  I already have an 8'x10' shed on the property, maybe I can turn it in to my guest house?

Ok, enough dreaming.  On Tuesday I am taking the afternoon off to go visit my dad for his birthday and have lunch with my mom.  I think that is the only interesting event of the week besides looking forward to another weekend.  Each day I work is another day closer to my semi-early retirement so I will happily get out of bed every morning and make the most out of every day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Peer Pressure

Semi-retirement or build a house?  My co-worker loves to ask me when I am building a house on my property because, of course, I must build a house because it is the only sane thing to do.  Since I am not rich, I must decide whether I want to semi-retire in a few years or take out a $100k loan, build a house and work for another 10 years to pay it off.  I choose the first one.  $100k wouldn't even get me much of a house either because in order to get a bank loan, I have to drill a well which costs $30k.  That would leave $70k for a small 2 bedroom, 1 bath house.  That's a lot of money and years of work for such a small house.  Now, whenever she brings it up (like at lunch today) I try to change the subject.  She is never going to approve of my home, decor, clothes, hair, shoes, etc...   I don't know why some people feel the need to make other people conform to their ideas.  Maybe I have "needs improvement" stamped on my forehead.

No news yet from my handyman or excavator.  My February weekends are pretty much closed anyway.  I expect lots of progress in March.  I have resisted the urge to get more foster dogs.  I don't know how long that will last.  Maybe until tomorrow.  My foster dog, Sassy, got the staples removed from her knee today.  She isn't walking on the leg yet but she isn't supposed to be walking on it for another 4 weeks so I guess that is ok.  Work is very busy but I am hoping to take next Tuesday afternoon off to go visit my dad for his birthday.  I've only used one half day of vacation so far and I had planned to use one day a month so I have extra time to use up.  At least it is something to look forward to next week besides work, work and more work.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chores Galore

I did it.  I did everything on my to-do list and more.  I really need a 3 day weekend but I will have to make my own because our next holiday is not until the end of March.  Maybe I can work from home next Friday.  Perhaps I could use "waiting for the plumber" as an excuse.  I do need a new shower faucet combo in my bathroom and a new garbage disposal.  But I am going to wait on the garbage disposal.  I don't use it so I am not going to have a new one installed until I am ready to sell this house.  In the meantime, it would be nice to have the old disposal removed and that side of the sink re-plumbed so I can use it without it leaking.

Anyway, I cleaned every part of the house where the dogs are allowed to roam.  That's everywhere except the 2 carpeted bedrooms.  I washed all dog towels and blankets and dragged all dog beds outside and sprayed them with Lysol while they basked in the sun.  All puppy stuff was washed and disinfected.  All items too big to drag outside (couch and recliner) were disinfected also.  All tile was swept and mopped.  The yard was cleaned of dog poop and the mop water was dumped in the side yard where the mama dog was housed.  The distemper virus doesn't live very long outside of a dog especially in a warm, dry climate but I took this as an opportunity to clean everything anyway.  It feels good to have everything clean (for the moment).

I started my taxes online with TaxAct.  For a moment, I thought I might get a refund like I did last year and then I remembered that I had adjusted my withholding.  Unfortunately, things went so well with my rental house this year that I owe $1,000.  What a disappointment.  I know financial people say that it is better to own money than to get a refund but, psychologically,  I would rather have a refund.  I need that incentive to get my taxes done.   I shouldn't be complaining that things went well but I am.  My mortgage is low so I didn't pay much mortgage interest.  My medical and dental bills come out of my pre-tax health savings account so they aren't deductible.  I get to deduct money spent on foster dogs but it still wasn't more than the standard deduction.  Oh well.  Maybe next year I should make an extra payment to the IRS so that my tax bill is closer to zero.  I'd be ok with zero.  I didn't submit my taxes yet.  I like to put all the information in and then wait a week and re-check it.

In between cleaning, taxes and watching movies with the dogs, I tackled the weed invasion in my yard.  The weed of the month is London Rocket, a type of wild mustard.  It is everywhere.  I got about 70% of the yard cleared but this side yard still needs work.  Next week it will be twice as tall.

I tried feeding it to my quail but they weren't impressed.  I need to work on the front yard too.  I put the shovel next to the gate so that I can grab it when I come home from work and kill weeds a little bit each day.  It isn't such a big job when I do it that way.

This week I hope to hear from my handyman so that I can show him what I want done at my property and I should call the earth-mover guy to fix the drainage and driveway.  It depends on how hectic work is this week.  It would be nice to get something else done out there though.  I'm feeling a bit stuck again.  I need progress.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Great Aunt Day

This week ended better than it started.  First of all, Fridays are always good.  Then my sister sent me a text that her son and his wife had a baby boy this morning.  That makes her a grandmother and me a great aunt.  That's going to take some getting used to.  The grandmother part, not the great aunt.  I've always been a "great" aunt.  hahaha.  My mother and father are now a great-grandmother and a great-grandfather.  Wow.  It was also my Minnesota nephew's 18th birthday.  This is the nephew that is the older brother of the nephew who is my ward.  Is that confusing, or what?  The 18 year old has been looking forward to this day for many years.  I wish him well as he ventures in to adulthood.  I hope it is everything he hopes it will be.

Work was pretty steady today and then my boss called and asked if I could pick up a coworker from the airport and drop him off at the shuttle bus that goes to the Mexican border.  I said sure and he said that I could go home after I was done which was awesome because I was done at 3:30.  I was able to go grocery shopping and get home by 5.  I went a little over-board with stocking up on sale items.  I spent the evening trying to fit everything in to my freezer.  I would love to have a separate freezer someday so I can really take advantage of sales.  I bought a pie last week, cut it up and brought individual slices to work.  My coworker laughed at me.  I don't know why.  Are single people only allowed to buy individual slices of pie?  It worked out so well that I bought 2 SaraLee cheesecakes on sale today, cut them up and froze them.  Now I can grab a small piece of cheesecake for my lunch whenever I want and because I get sick of things really fast, I don't have to worry about the rest of it going bad because it will last for many weeks in the freezer.

Now for an exciting weekend of house cleaning and taxes! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paw Prints in the Sand

Sorry for another depressing post.  The mom and her last puppy passed away yesterday.  It was awful and traumatic and distemper is a terrible disease.  I am so sad that I couldn't save any of them.  Besides that, work has been ok.  Busy but not as stressful as last week.  My tenants paid their rent.  They have been very good tenants.  I hope they stay for a long time.  I paid the $100 reservation fee for my nephew just in case he wants to continue going to school in Minnesota.  I wouldn't want him to lose his spot.  This weekend I should start my taxes because I need the information for his financial aid application which is due Feb. 28th.  I'm still going to fill out the paperwork.  If he wants to come back to Arizona next school year that is ok too.  He would be going to public school here so I don't need to worry about financial aid or reserving a spot.  

The weather here is in the high 70's all week but I am stuck in an office all day and will be doing my taxes and thoroughly cleaning the house on the weekend.  I am sure I can take a few breaks to chase the dogs around the yard.  Maybe we will actually go for a walk.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Looking Forward

My dad is a huge football fan.  At least, he was.  He isn't able to follow the action anymore.  Growing up I was never interested.  I wanted to talk through the boring plays and was only quiet to watch the commercials.  Of course, this annoyed my father who was trying to watch the game.  Some of my siblings became fans but I would not have known the super bowl was on today except for people talking about it on the radio.  Facebook posts have told me who the winner was and if I want to see any of the commercials they will be on the internet.

My weekend was spent helping my mother organize her closet, dispensing medication and goat's milk to my dogs and puppy, and taking naps as much as possible.  Last week my job was very frustrating because my boss gave me a project that took most of my time which meant my other work piled up.  By the end of the week I was contemplating quitting again.  Hopefully this week will be better because I need to last at this job at least 3 more years in order to have a big enough financial cushion.  But sometimes I start thinking, what if I left now?  I can't think like that until my nephew is 18 and I am no longer his guardian.  3 years is not that long.

Now, what can I look forward to this week besides Friday?  Hmm...I can't think of anything.  Well, then, I will have to take it one day at a time.  Tomorrow the weather will be nice, my lunch will be leftover beef tips and roasted potatoes (which was very good for dinner tonight), I have a piece of chocolate pie to bring for dessert, and I am bringing my tiny puppy to work so that I can feed him so I guess I am glad that I have a job that lets me bring dogs to work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mortgage Update for January 2015

It's mortgage update time already.  I'm still making up for prior expenditures so I only contributed $1,200 extra to my mortgage this month.    New balance:  $48,187.  If I have a really low spend month I can contribute up to $1,600 but that hasn't happened yet.  $1,200 a month extra is what I based my plan A spreadsheet on.  With plan A I will have it paid off in 2 years and 9 months.  Plan B is the accelerated plan where everything goes well and I never have any unexpected bills to pay (haha) and I add an extra $3,000 from savings at the end.  Plan B will take 2 years.  If I went back to paying just my mortgage payment I would have it paid off in 15 years.  That is way too long.

I finally heard back from my handyman.  I have been eagerly awaiting his call so that I can meet him at my property and show him what I want done.  He sent me a text today and said he spent the weekend in the hospital having his appendix removed and it will be 2 weeks before he can go back to work.  Well, I'm glad he is alright but that's a bummer.  I should call the earth-mover guy and get him scheduled so that I keep my plan going.  The people that made the site plan for me called today and wanted to know if they could do anything else for me.  I am glad they are eager to help.  It is frustrating to have to work everyday because I would much rather be working on my property but I need the money so I have to keep my job...for now.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not as Planned

This weekend did not go as planned.  I was hoping to go visit my parents but I didn't feel well so I stayed home and then puppies started dying.  They caught kennel cough from their mother and weren't nursing and I think the mom's milk started to dry up.  So, I stayed home to relax but ended up bottle feeding the remaining puppies and texting the vet for medicine.  I did finally get medicine and IV fluids for them tonight.  Only 3 puppies left out of 7.  I hope they make it.  I'm going to bring them to my office tomorrow so that I can feed them goat's milk every two hours.  Did you know Safeway sells goat's milk now?  I actually saw in on sale last week but couldn't think of a reason to buy it.  I should have bought it and froze it just in case.  At $5 a quart it's still cheaper than puppy powder formula and there's no mixing.

Anyhow, I'm not very optimistic about the puppies because they are only 2 weeks old but I will do everything that I can.  On Tuesday I will be taking my other foster dog in for her long awaited knee surgery.  What else this week.... I ordered free seeds from the seed library.  I'm going to finish installing my drip irrigation system so that my garden needs less tending.  My winter garden has been a flop for the most part.  Some of the seeds finally sprouted but today they were gone.  I think a bird found them.  At least the snow peas are doing well.  No peas yet but there are some blossoms.  I collected so many seeds from last years crops plus the free seeds from the library so I won't have to buy any unless I want something more exotic and I don't because I don't have time for it.

Oo, oo, and I get to make my extra mortgage payment this week because it's the end of the month.  I always look forward to that!