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0 In Finances/ Life Lessons

Life Goal: Auto Loan Paid in Full

auto-loan-payoff

I even paid my auto loan off early!

Paying my car off was not on my 2020 Ta-Da list. The loan maturation date was sometime in April 2021, but past Nat made a terribly awesome decision to pay beyond the monthly payment. I learned a lot along the way, so I’ll share those lessons with you in this post.

Lesson 1: Avoid the auto loan in the first place

In my case, it was unavoidable. I financed my car entirely back in 2015 because my first car had more than its fair share of issues (brakes, suspension, transmission number 3) and after my last car door lock broke – duct tape was involved, I pulled into the CarMax lot about an hour after I got off of a plane.

The sales guy wasn’t going to let me leave in my first car. I still remember his expression when I pulled into the dealership that somehow let my brother have a car and I had the steadier job between the two of us. I had reserved my current car while I was out of state at a convention in Georgia and after my bank sneered at me for daring to get a loan in the first place, I had to eat a 485$ a month car payment with Gap insurance. That was when I learned just how quickly my money moves. Which is a loan rejection reason.

“Your money moves too fast.” Excuse me for paying bills?

Not that said gap insurance did me any good, but it did make my insurance company happy. If I had a better trade-in or actual funds for a down payment, I would have put it down. Instead, I had a 400$ scrap to my name. But I needed a car.

So I now had a six-year auto loan. Yay.

Lesson 2: Pay over the loan’s minimum payment

Don’t ask me where I heard the tip. Maybe it was something I found on the Internet. Maybe it was from a friend. But instead of paying that 485$ a month, I bumped my payment up to $500 a month and hoped it was a good idea. It was a handsome chunk of change to lose each month, but I needed the car and it was a perfect fit for my lifestyle. The cost was doable, but I had to be smart about my budget. Past Nat was a clever cookie. It was just another step in paying off my auto loan early.

Lesson 3: Savings accounts are your friend

Any time I incur any sort of significant windfall (over $300), I deposit it straight into my savings account. Well, I have it set to be wired straight to my savings account so I don’t have to think about it. I just am surprised when I receive a notification from my credit union and do a tiny little dance.

But the hero, in this case, was my savings account. I would check in on my car loan each month to see when it would reach a level that I could pay off all at all.

Once the account hit 3k, I made that transfer the next week.

Don’t worry, I had a full-blown freak out over it. I’ve never moved so much money in my life and I moved across the damn country.

Lesson 4: Pay off the Auto Loan early

I know, I know, the credit experts tell you not to pay off auto loans and personal loans early to because it screws up your credit score. Well, I needed that extra 500$ back in order to make rent, so my credit score can suffer a bit. I had a goal where I paid my auto loan off early. I just didn’t know what early actually meant. But doing so was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done in my life. Now if only I can unsaddle the credit card debt.

I’m working on it.

Lesson 5: Do not lease an apartment you have to dance to pay for

Still learning this one. Turns out, your first paycheck going straight to a cell phone bill and rent and having to pay remaining expenses from the second paycheck is not my best strategy and I need a new one. Would love to hear some not-spammy feedback on this topic.

Goal 1: Auto Loan Paid In Full – Complete

This was a goal I had on my 10-year plan and I’m happy to say, my car is entirely mine, complete with the overpayment check I deposited into savings.

…And then someone hit me at a red light and I backed into a second car later down the road. Because this is what happens when you own your car outright, right?

Unfortunately, my car has a time limit, because the Silver Comet’s clearance is too low to drive on the beach sand. But that’s a bridge I’ll cross at a future time.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite loan payoff tips you’ve learned over the years? Share it in the comments below so we can help each other!

0 In Affiliate Post/ Finances/ Life Lessons/ Resources

In Credit-Card Debt Up To My Ears

Credit-card debt is scary. They* say that the first step in handling your debt is to identify it. All of it!

I’m doing so via this post. As the debt decreases – I’ll update things here. I’m also tracking my credit-card debt in the sidebar because I’m long past the point where I need to get serious about it.

Which means I go public!

The first focus is on my smallest credit-card, my Amazon Prime Card. I’ll eventually work my way down with the current plan to conquer each amount. Snowballing (adding the previous amount to the debt’s minimum payment) as I work through the list. You can see how the debts will be treated in the infographic below.

*Go ahead and google “financial steps”. I’ll wait.

The Credit Card Debt List

Amazon Prime Card: $1654.59

Limiting my Amazon purchases is the first step I’m taking to pay off this card. My next step is to stop using the card and making those purchases on bank card #1 instead (I’m in the middle of a bank switch). Payments will be $190 twice a month (self-imposed) until the debt is paid off in November 2019.

Capital One Platinum Card: $2551.59

This card was my first credit card and helped me pay for a new transmission. That said, now it goes unused and is now just being paid off. Payments are $80 until Amazon is paid off, at that point the payments will be $270 twice a month until the debt is paid off hopefully by January 2020.

PAID! Auto Loan: $9,169.65

There’s a reason I’m including this one in the breakdown – as it’s a debt, but I’d like to pay it off earlier than intended just to prove to myself that I can. Will I finance a new car afterward? I doubt it because I barely drive the one I have!

The current minimum payment is $482.68. I added extra to bring it up to around $500 a month that I am now sick of paying. I’m going to bump the payment up to $570 to attack my monthly interest until it’s ready to have the snowball thrown at it. With the snowball in effect, the payment will be $840 until that load is paid off by September 2020.

Capital One Journey Card: $8389.85

My third oldest credit card that was approved just as my car’s second transmission died (it was used – but had a weird quirk nobody was ready for) and I needed the cash to pay for a new transmission fast. Capital One pulled through for me when my own bank wouldn’t. The minimum payment on this one is hefty at $265, but once the other debts are paid in full, the payment will skyrocket to $1,105 to effectively erase this one by January 2021. It helps that I rarely use this card. So far, it’s primary use has been for business reasons – and it will continue to be used on a smaller scale for business reasons that I can pay off the next week.

US Bank Card: $8,632.86

My second oldest credit card and once I conquer this one, I will close out my accounts with US Bank and transfer this card over to my new Credit Union account. The minimum payment on this one isn’t as heavy as my Capital One Journey’s payment, but it’s still $232. Once the snowball has been hurled at it, it will be $1,337 until May 2021 when I have it paid in full.

Personal Loan List

The two below loans are special to me because of how fast I was able to acquire them and everything they’ve allowed me to do with my life. I’m super grateful to Sofi for not giving me the run around most financial companies do. They even overlooked my most popular reason for high-interest rates:

“Your money moves too fast.”

Yes, that was an actual rejection reason.

Sofi Personal Loan #1: $10,788.96

I’m almost two-thirds of the way paid off with my first SoFi loan. It’s currently set for auto-payment at $435.32. The final payment will be in June 2021 with $1,209.5. There will be no need for an actual snowball plan for this one since it’s so far down the line!

Sofi Personal Loan #2: $19,003.62

This loan got me to Seattle. I don’t regret this move either as it was a great boost to raise my credit limit, criteria I didn’t know I would need until I was elbow-deep into looking for an apartment here in Washington. Also set up for auto-pay, the payment is currently $377.52 each month. The snowball payment will be $2,149.95 when it’s all said and done. I’m hoping to have it paid off by December 2021.

Some Income Numbers

Now, Natasha, you ask, where is this income coming from?! Well, I’m paid pretty handsomely by Day Job, and two paychecks a month ring in at $5,180.12 gross. Insurance and stock are taken out before I even see it, so it’s one less thing I actively worry about as long as I’m employed by a corporation.

My current outgoing income is a little scarier than I’d like, but that’s why I’m creating this post! I’m looking at $3,884.45 in Debt alone, and I’m hoping that in 6 months, that number moves a little!

All in all, my financial health doesn’t suck. I can still pay for food, insurance, gas, and have some semblance of a social life that will be curtailed in about 8 months due to a new project I’m getting ready to launch. I also plan to increase my income with freelance projects and side items that I know are pretty lucrative.

To wrap this all up, I’m using Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball to conquer my own credit-card debt and take control of my finances. If I play my cards right, I will be debt-free by the end of 2021 and I’m super excited about it! I’ll update this post when I hit my debt milestones and I encourage you to leave your own debt-control plans in the comments below. Let’s celebrate together!

0 In Affiliate Post/ DIY/ Finances/ Life Lessons

Saving Without Thinking: Using Automation

Saving money is Hard. There, I said it.

Sure, we have Online Banking, savings apps, jars, mattresses, squirrel funds, etc, but let’s be honest here. Saving money is HARD. It’s hard when you’re broke, it’s hard when you’re not broke, and it’s even harder when you have the money to burn but you also have financial goals and things you’re saving for that matter to you.

I’m going to share with you some tricks I’ve used to help me break a couple of mindsets and conquer a financial milestone. Automation has played a pretty heavy hand in all of this.

Automating Your Savings

Why automate? Because it removes the “you” factor from the equation once you’ve set it up. Your only goal after setting up the automation is to have the personal discipline to ignore it long enough to reach your savings goal. Or see it gain interest. Or both. I was really fond of my bank paying me for keeping my cash with them, but your mileage may vary. This is a 5-Step Process. Read below to find out more!
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Use automations and recurring transfers to help boost your savings

Step 1: Open a Separate Savings Account

I can hear you already. “But I already have one open!”

Do it anyway. That account has been You-Comprised. So we’re starting out with a Fresh new account. If it needs $50 to open it, you are going to move that $50 over to it. Because with a fresh new account comes a fresh new goal. It helps that this is also a certain Financial Guru’s Baby Step #1: $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund.

You also need to promise yourself to not touch this account. This one is strictly to save your funds with the automation. If any money comes out of it, it’s you moving it to another bank’s saving account (what I’m doing with my own).

Step 2: Start Small: Find an Amount You Won’t Miss

Well, yes, you’re going to miss it for the first few paychecks. But then you’ll find that you can skip that $6 latte (I live in Seattle) and just take your own mochas out with you in a travel mug. You’ll make a game to see what you can give up and suddenly that amount you set up to start saving each month is no longer missed. I started with $50. I usually pay for lattes with this amount, so to give it up to the automation is well worth it.

Step 3: Step up an Internal Transfer (Psst, this is the Automation)

Go sign into your Online Banking account.

You’re going to set up an internal transfer from your checking to your savings account. I started with one transfer going out at the 1st of the month. Once my paycheck hits my account, that money is already heading elsewhere. I didn’t even see it go unless I signed into the account itself.

You can choose the dates that work for you, but you do have to choose them.

Step 4: Observe & Modify

We wait and we watch. I waited a couple of months before I added a second (third and fourth) transfer because I’m paid twice a month. So I increased the amount of the first transfer to $100 and this one I started at $50. I added two other automations to take advantage of both savings accounts because well, I can get creative with groceries and takeout in this city is expensive anyway.

Step 5: Stop Thinking About It

Ignore that account until the amount on it reads over $1,000. If I received a bonus from my Insurance, I sent it to Savings. If I received a bonus from work, the same story, it went to that Savings account because it helped me achieve Step 1 that much faster.

Once you’ve completed Steps 1 – 5, you can celebrate!

Celebration Time!

Congratulations! You’ve taken an awesome and huge step toward conquering a financial goal by automating your savings.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

You Mentioned a Certain Financial Guru

I did.

A fast online search can help you suss out their identity if not the below steps certainly will. As much as I would love to cling to the below steps, knowing that they’ve indeed worked for so many others, I also know myself.

I’m going to skip at least three of those (5, 6, & 7) because two no longer apply to my life and one I sort of do each month anyway.

The Baby Steps are Below:

  • Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
  • Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
  • Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give!

Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps

Hang On, You said Jars, Mattresses, and Squirrel Funds

I meant it too, well, kind of. Except for the mattress thing, that was my grandfather’s way of savings. Mine is just the jars and squirrel funds. In an undisclosed place in my apartment is a coffee cup dedicated to my coin change. At the end of each month, I empty out all of my coin change from my wallet/purse, hold back just enough for two bus rides ($5.50) in quarters, and put the rest in that cup.

I have no idea what that cup has in it, except for a lot of coins that I’ll take to a bank one day.

The Squirrel fund though is a new one that I started when I moved to Seattle and realized that I actually could. Some of you may have heard it referred to as something else, but I call it the Squirrel fund and it comes in two varieties. The first is physical.

At the end of the week, if I have any number of $5 bills in my wallet, I put them in the physical Squirrel fund. Once that fund reaches $100, it either goes to the bank, or I take it to go play.

I also have a digital Squirrel fund that my friend introduced me to called Qapital. She thinks of it as gamefying her savings, I called it the digital Squirrel fund and this is where I’m going to be a shameless plugger.

The Shameless Plugging

Available for both IOS and Android, there’s an app called Qapital. You set your goal, attach your banking card, and set a rule to help you save. I set a goal for $2,500 to save for a new-to-me MacBook. My rule is for every purchase I make, Qapital rounds up to the next two dollars and shoots it to the digital squirrel fund. In the short two weeks, I’ve used the app, I’ve become very cognizant of the purchases and frequency of purchases made. Forty dollars down, only $2,460 to go!

0 In Finances/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Housekeeping: Outsourced Edition

About three months after I moved to Seattle, I um, outsourced my housekeeping. Oh, I heard all of the retorts, not one of them applicable to what I was going through at the time, and what I still fight with. cleaning-supplies in a bucket

“Oh, you’re just showing off.”

“You’re lazy.”

“Your place is tiny, you can clean it within hours.”

“You work from home, you can clean through the day.”

“You’re a perfectly healthy adult, now go be one and clean your flat.”

“What a waste of money.”

“You must be rich.”

And one helpful, “that must be nice.”

You’re probably reading this post thinking along those same lines. I mean, those were the general reactions I heard when folks asked how I kept my space relatively clean. But save for four people in my life, not including my landlord, many do not understand why I hired cleaning help.

“Oh, you’re just showing off.”

Except I’m not. I hired help back in Ohio too. To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed between the cross-country move, my shifting day job to accommodate said move, my own brain not quite figuring out why I wasn’t going out every night as I had in Cincinnati, and my own chemistry deciding to throw a wrecking ball into the feelings mix.

I found myself incredibly lonely, sitting in a trash bag flat and feeling like a wreck in both myself and my apartment. What else can life throw at you?

In my case, it threw a helping hand.

“You’re lazy.” 

Working from 6am PST to 6pm PST in order to shift my day job, running a blog, maintaining 4 websites, writing a novel, writing a screenplay, trying to have a social life, keeping my apartment clean, cooking not one, not two, but three meals for myself each day, washing up afterward, and trying to have the spoons to do all of those things within 24 hrs a day? I barely had enough gumption to clean my own flat, much else do anything else that required not sitting in a chair for 12 hours a day.

In order to gain some semblance of control in my life, I gave up some of it to someone else.

“Your place is tiny, you can clean it within hours.”

Sure, 400 sq. ft. is not a lot of space. But when you’ve all but sat in one spot for 12+ hours a day, the idea of cleaning 20 ft. worth of counter space, doing dishes, cooking food, and making sure your bed is made when you feel like garbage is the last thing you want to do with your time. Or you can at least keep things tidy until you can get help with the deep clean.

“You work from home, you can clean through the day.”

For those who have day jobs, do you clean your house while you work? At the office? Impressive.

But I actually can not clean through the day while at work. Primarily because I’m working. The way I bill at my day job is by 15-minute increments. I can’t just sneak away to go wash dishes when a client needs a task completed. Management tends to frown on sandbaggers and since I do work remotely, I have to prove myself as a competent employee twice over compared to somebody working from one of the office hubs.

Unless it’s a slow day. When those arrive, you study.

“You’re a perfectly healthy adult, now go be one and clean your flat.”

Also not true. I have a multitude of mental and physical issues that rob me of energy daily. Add in Executive Dysfunction and things get weird and just don’t get done. Once the Anxiety kicks in, because adults should be able to clean their own flats, it’s a downward spiral that ends up with a lot of frustrated dishes being done. 

Fortunately, I can ask for help. I did ask for help.

“What a waste of money.”

Hardly! I researched Seattle cleaning companies when I moved. They were asking for $140 for two hours’ worth of work. Or I could just hire the person my landlord uses and her rates were significantly more accessible. We’ve both discussed just what a deal I’m getting there, so I tip her the difference of what she’d usually charge other homes. If that means skipping a dinner out twice a month, it’s worth it for the peace of mind her cleaning brings.

“You must be rich.”

Nope! I am learning how to budget for things I need and things I want. Hiring Hjordis made more sense than getting SNS manicures twice a month.

“That must be nice.”

You’re right. It is nice. Knowing that Hjordis will sweep in, put things to rights, and grant me the opportunity to walk into a pristine space when she’s finished or keep me company as she works, is such a relief. It’s a visible relief because I’m not sitting trying to come up with a cleaning plan, failing at it, and then things spiral out of my control. These days, I just make an effort to keep things to a mild mess, and then Hjordis does the deep cleaning I do not have the energy for.

“So how much is this woman?”

Sixty dollars. Yeah, a steal. I only pay $60 to clean my studio. I tip her excessively, because it is a deal, and I know I’m getting off easy. The trade-off being the help with keeping my head above water some weeks and she’s a joy to chat with when we are both feeling social. Figuring out what to snip from the budget is a tiny obstacle that I conquer monthly.

If you also work from home, or just completely overwhelmed with being domestic on top of your own work, outsource it! It sounds extravagant, but if it’s just you managing your entire life on top of your family, cleaning can often fall to the wayside and it’s not worth the emotional labor. At that point, it’s a lifesaver.

“How do I find one?”

Google is a big help here, but also word of mouth. Ask your friends who hire help for their suggestions, or your neighborhood facebook or Next Door group. You’d be surprised just who outsources their own housework because it does feel like a luxury, but if your budget can support it, you also get those hours back that you’d otherwise spend cleaning.

Sound off in the comments if you also outsource your own domestic work and the area you live in. Your own suggestions may help someone else in a similar situation.

0 In Finances/ Relocation

Why Wallingford?

Spite.

I moved half out of spite.

The rest was sheer dumb luck.

When I initially planned to move to Seattle, I had a list of neighborhoods I planned on looking at during my apartment search. Those were:

  • Ballard
  • Fremont
  • Queen Anne
  • Lower Queen Anne
  • Belltown
  • Westlake

Then a few wrenches fell into the works and a few unexpected happy accidents did as well and suddenly, my list shifted to drop a few neighborhoods off of that list.

I realized that Ballard was actually two Ballards. And I wanted Old Ballard – which had no real car parking outside of street parking and I SUCK at parallel parking. North Ballard wasn’t even on my radar and was too far from Downtown than I wanted.

Queen Anne was too pricy for my wallet.

LQA was already occupied by a friend who had just finished dealing with a stalker and knowing that I was potentially considering spaces less than a few blocks away from them – I opted out of LQA.

Westlake was pricier than I wanted and I had no clue about Wallingford, except that it was a neighborhood north of Gas Works Park.

Belltown wasn’t happening due to cost and frankly, I just didn’t like the Google Maps version.

Fremont was doable and had enough unique things that living there sounded like fun. So my list shifted to look a lot smaller:

  • Wallingford – close to Fremont, Green Lake, and Downtown.
  • Ravenna – cost and public transportation easy to get to.
  • Green Lake – was near a neighborhood called Tangletown and I was just fascinated.
  • Fremont – Center of the Universe and I’m a Leo.

Now for the dumb luck

On a random search, I found my space, which was two blocks from a pole studio on the Wallingford side of Aurora Ave that I knew I wanted to attend.

It was also close to Fremont, so I could walk there if the hill didn’t kill me first.

The rest was because when your landlord offers to pick you up from the airport, you drop anchor and you never fucking leave. Because I wasn’t going to find that type of person anywhere else in Seattle.

Unless I moved to Shoreline where Ed’s business partner lives.

Fast Forward a Year

Wallingford is now home. The coffee shop at 45th and Stone sees me enough to know my coffee order and the teashop at 43rd and Stone is pretty much my second home.

Which I’m going to say isn’t quite so bad for a decision made out of Spite and sheer Dumb Luck.

0 In Finances/ Relocation

Cross-Country Moves: The Natasha Version

What are two topics that mean “racket” to you?

For me that’s weddings and babies. Mention either of those two words and suddenly everything is so much more expensive.

Let’s also add one more: Cross-Country moving.

Why? Because everything is specialized! Only certain moving companies will do it. You may need a Pod, or four pods and a truck. You have to pay for the truck, the gas, and so help you if that crew gets lost.

If you paid for them.

Or do what I did. I said “sod it all”, sold everything I owned (well, what didn’t fit into my car), and took myself on a 6,000 mile roadtrip.

Everything you see in the picture below is what ended up in my car, including 2 humans and minus one rather pissed-off cat because I heard her crying as soon as I left the apartment for good.

  • Two steamer trunks
  • Four Thirty-One Utility totes
  • That red weekender
  • Two backpacks
  • Two purses
  • Two Helmer Drawer Units
  • A drying rack
  • Those pictures you see behind the door
  • One large turquoise suitcase

All of it came with Kat and myself along our drive up I-74, across I-80 for two days, up I-84, and finally up I-5 to a not-so-final trip to IKEA. Home stretch was up the 509 to the soon to SR 99 and into my new home for good. The trip was spread over three days due to weather and funds. We traded off at every gas station, so around every 400 miles, or in one petty case, making sure Kat’s hangover allowed her to drive because she had to walk into the hotel room screaming at 2am.

In The End

In total, the trip was around $800. Which is a good deal less than the $6,000 quote I received from a moving company. Of course, this did not include Kat’s flight back to Kentucky. I upgraded her to business class as an apology for dropping her off 3 hours too early at SEA-TAC. All in all, it was around $1,300.

Are you stuck in this same spot?

Make Google your friend. You’ll want to be prepared to answer a lot of phonecalls. It may get frustrating. But weigh your options. The hardest way may actually be the cheapest when it comes to a cross-country move.

Have a better idea for the followers? Let me know in the comments!

0 In Finances/ Relocation/ Resources

Why a Studio Apartment?

Why did I go with a studio apartment?

I’m in debt. A studio apartment was the cheapest option I could afford and not be super house-poor or have roommates. One of the many reasons I moved away from Ohio was to get away from having a roommate. During my search, I had the following options:

  • A micro-suite in Ballard because I wanted to have all utilities included.
  • A studio apartment in Wallingford near a Pole Dance Studio I really wanted to check out.
  • A 1-bedroom up in Shoreline
  • Or a house further up North.

I wanted to be close to Downtown Seattle, without being in Downtown Seattle. But one-bedroom apartments around here start around $1,400 a month. I wanted to keep things under $1350 if it meant I had to eat utilities. Because I do like having somewhat decent credit and to keep it somewhat decent means paying my bills on time all of the time.

After hearing a friend’s struggles living in a microsuite for a year over in Capitol Hill, I decided having a full kitchen and separate bathroom were a better idea since I work from home. Proximity to a walking-friendly neighborhood would be a worthwhile investment.

I also knew I could get away with a studio, because after spending $650 a month back in Cincinnati on a 2-bedroom apartment, where I pretty much ignored every room save the kitchen, my bedroom, and the bathroom, I knew going in that I honestly didn’t need 1,000 sq. ft. to myself.

Which left me with a studio.

Challenges of a Studio Apartment

That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges to living in a studio apartment. There are plenty!  I’ll share just how I manage and still stay sane.

Space (or Lack Thereof)

I’m careful about who visits me because I live in 400 sq. ft. If there’s an argument, there is no place to run and hide.  One door separates my sleeping/living space from the kitchen leaving my bathroom as another place to pout. So unless I physically leave my apartment, visitors are trusted friends who are on my level of woo-woo, glittery bullshit**. (I say this with love.)

Stuff Management

There, I said it. I don’t have a lot of stuff in the studio. Art has its place, but unless I have a designated spot for something, it does not come home with me because I don’t have space. If I want new clothes – old clothes are sent to the neighborhood Buy Nothing Group or Goodwill because this bares repeating, I don’t have space for them. There are some sacrifices, but I will go pretty damn far to maintain a beautiful space.

Working from Home

Space isn’t the challenge here. Having a dedicated place to work isn’t a challenge either. My studio apartment has a bar in the kitchen where I have a small corner to work. In my main living space, I can be found curled up in a chair with a lap desk. The true challenge is being lonely. I could go for days without seeing a soul and it gets old.

Parties

I don’t have them. My building has small get-togethers in the upstairs apartment whenever the Landlord calls for one, but the largest number of people I’ve had in this space has been… four people. I’m hoping to rectify this one with a small cocktail party in the Spring of 2019. We’ll see if it actually happens.

August 2019 Edit: It did not happen.

Lease Agreement for Visitors

One of my lease conditions states overnight visitors can stay up to 5 nights during a month. It took about a year for me to suss out the actual legal reasons for this. Now why only up to 5 nights during a month?

  1. My utilities are included in my rent. The overage has to be paid off by somebody and it will fall to me. Also, because any longer over a month and by Seattle law, the visitor is now someone who lives there.
  2. Seattle Housing Laws: Dictate that only 5 people not related to the owner of the home can live with the homeowner. The house is currently at that limit with the addition of an infant.

Benefits of a Studio Apartment

Easily Accessible Humans

My building is a house split up into 4 units. The landlord lives downstairs. My floor neighbor is across the hall and a super sweet couple lives upstairs. I’ve been encouraged to go knock on their doors when lonely because they all are either retired or work from home as I do. Granted, I know this wouldn’t apply in a big complex, but I can get away with it here.

For readers in a big complex or may move into one, get to know your neighbors! You never know if one may need to move your car.

Easy Rent Payment

Most of the building uses checks. Once my bank accounts are completely switched over, I’m setting up a bank transfer with my landlord so he can always have the payment by the 5th each month. I could use a check, or I could eschew writing in cursive all together by doing it digitally. It helps that our bank is two blocks away.

All-Inclusive

Even my internet. Don’t get me started on the A/C that a lot of Seattle just doesn’t have. I’m not really looking forward to the day that I have to set up various utility accounts and get charged a deposit because I have no rental history in Seattle.

At least, none that the companies will be able to tell. All-Inclusive utilities makes for an easy one-check a month deal. If I have a visitor, I gently add a little more to rent to help cover for the upswing.

Space (Lack Thereof)

My studio is pretty damn easy to keep clean when I can see every room from any spot in the flat. But when my space is messy, it gets gross. When folks do want to visit, I just meet them somewhere else for dinner so I can deal with my mess later.

Quick to Decorate!

There’s not a lot of space to mess around with in the studio, so it keeps me creative with what I can and can’t do here.

There’s a lot I can do!

0 In Finances/ Relocation

Starting Over in Your 30s (how to move cross-country on a budget)

Seattle Skyline from Lake Union on I5

You see, I never planned on moving cross-country. Maybe moving closer to the center of Cincinnati, Ohio, sure, but to another city and actually surviving there?

Oh no.

Just a fantasy unless my career paid for relocation.

At least, that’s what I thought going into 2017 and planning a vacation to Miami with friends. It was during said planning when I decided to extend my time off by another week and fly from Miami to Seattle. The original idea to meet up with a friend and honestly, just to check out a city I had always wanted to visit, but never had a chance.

Three days.

Just three days in the Emerald City and I found myself sobbing into the shoulder of a random stranger, who merely patted my hair, smoothed it away from my face and told me one thing that cemented the rest of my life.

“You’ll be back soon enough.”

She wasn’t wrong.

My relocation story is atypical, but I learned some pretty valuable lessons from the experience that I’d like to share with you.

Moving Across The Country: Part 1

Lesson One: When looking for an apartment, be prepared to move fast.

I found my studio right around Christmas 2017. There were about 99 listings I sifted through and applied to a good majority of them, but the property managers either wanted me in Seattle to see the spaces, make arrangements for someone IN Seattle to see them, or flat out did not want to rent to a transplant. Some listings were online for months, others for mere hours before they were rented.

If I wanted a space in one of my dream neighborhoods, then I learned super quick to move fast. My studio was online for 6 hours before I contacted the property manager.

Yvonne contacted me about an hour after I emailed and the rest is history. Once I had the apartment settled, I had to address my belongings.

Lesson Two: Vacuum-pack bags are a God-Send.

Selling, giving away, donating or trashing everything I owned prior to this move, some furniture, and other items stayed at the apartment to be delivered to my grandmother and my move was essentially split into four parts.

Part 1 was my first cross-country flight to meet my new landlord and his business partner, who did most of the legal legwork with me. The house is a little unorthodox. Each floor has a separate unit or two, so they vet future tenants to ensure each person is a good fit for the “community”.

Yvonne characterizes Ed as a grumpy curmudgeon and she’s not too far off the mark. He’s not so grumpy as he is when bored. They didn’t look for the pristine credit scores other apartments wanted. Or a long rental history. Or other hoops I’ve seen repeatedly. They pretty much just wanted to make sure you were a good tenant and could afford the rent.

I passed muster.

Working from home interested them because Yvonne works from home herself and during one chat we had, mentioned that the shared house would be good for me as I wouldn’t be completely isolated from people.

The first cross-country flight was with a weekender filled with a week’s worth of clothes, my work backpack, a suitcase with lights, silverware, two pillows, a blanket, and an air mattress all vacuum-packed into Zip-loc space bags so they’d fit and minimal toiletries. I would purchase the rest here in Seattle.

Lesson Three: Crossing three time zones wears on you.

HARD.

Working from 6 am to 6 pm because your day job expects you to work East Coast hours when you live on the West Coast wears on you too. Oh, and day job expected me to also work West Coast hours.

I stayed for a week after making a large IKEA trip via two Lyft rides. I regretted nothing. Except for the curtain rods and curtains I purchased and ultimately passed along via the neighborhood buy-nothing groups. I did wish somebody warned me about the soda tax and the plastic bag ban.

Moving Cross-Country: Part 2

Lesson Four: Amazon Prime pays for itself when buying furniture in a hurry.

My second trip was with the same luggage, but also more lighting, power tools, some decorations, and more clothes. This trip heralded a fun step that I was looking forward to for weeks.

I wouldn’t be sleeping on an air mattress. After flexing my Amazon muscles, I somehow managed to strike moving gold. My new mattress, bed frame, and chairs all arrived the day I did. That week was also spent painting and putting together a dresser I would revisit and actually finish nine months later.

Lesson Five: Seattle Winters Are Brutal.

I won’t lie though. That week was lonely. Bearable, but lonely. February in Seattle can be brutal because it’s gray and dreary and as much as I love when it rains, even I felt the wear. I also spent that week painting and putting together a dresser that I’d actually finish nine months later (long story and another post).

Day job got harder this time around as the time zones once again took their toll. My landlord would pop in daily because each time he saw me on the cameras, I just looked sad (his words, not mine). I told him my ex-roommate wasn’t really being helpful (I was paying for both apartments in full each time) and my Ohio friends weren’t handling the move as well as I had hoped they would. I expected some tears and angst, but not complete isolation.

Part of the reason I moved in the first place was I was tired of being invisible. The last person you’d invite to a party to round out the group. The warm body. My Ohio crew proved what had eaten away at me for months.

I had to make Seattle work for me.

picture of studio through mirror closet doors

Moving Cross-Country: Part 3

Lesson Six: Shipping your car across the country is expensive.

Driving your car cross-country is about $400 in food and gas. Between both of us, we’d at least keep each other entertained and awake, even if we were only stopping for food, gas, and sleep during the whole three-day trip.

The day I left, my father told me that he was homeless. He had been evicted from his apartment because he refused to pay rent due to a bed bug infestation. Due to a bed bug infestation in his apartment, he failed to pay rent and didn’t put it into escrow.

A part of starting over is learning how to save yourself. I offered up a plausible solution, but neither my roommate or my own father refused to utilize it.

Leaving Ohio is the best thing that’s ever happened to me with a dark caveat which would come to light in the next few months.

April ended with my landlord offering to take me to a casino with his family in an effort to get me out of Seattle. Day Job Natasha was more a gasoline-soaked pile of kindling waiting for a spark to ignite another meltdown rather than the sparkly Email Gremlin she usually is.

I cracked quickly.

Moving Cross-Country: The Aftermath

It started with a question asked by an old friend in March 2012. “How depressed are you?”

I functioned with Depression up until I removed myself from a physical comfort zone. Doing so triggered a massive slump that nobody wanted to talk about.

Except for my Day Job Manager. Courtney saw a powder keg ready to implode. The long days work required and my tendency to self-isolate when the pressure increased did not help.

She suggested therapy. Our company has a deal with a psychological group that allows us eight therapy phone calls before we are turned loose on an actual counselor.

Lesson Seven: Asking for Help does not mean you are Weak.

Jeff’s first diagnosis confirmed what I already knew. I’m a chameleon with great coping mechanisms. Usually high-functioning, but moving and other stressors exacerbated my condition. Our sessions are primarily discussing how my coping methods work for me and making lifestyle adjustments when something isn’t working.

His second diagnosis was another confirmation. I had an inkling about General Anxiety Disorder when I had a meltdown in 2013. My occupation requires a certain amount of paranoia, but the nightmares and soaring blood pressure when working was just a symptom of a far larger issue. Since I live in Seattle, he suggested CBD oil as a means to control the anxiety without the drowsiness. I haven’t committed to this.

Lesson Eight: ADHD does not look the same in Everyone.

The third diagnosis was a surprise. Coping mechanisms I learned handling depression also managed my ADHD, which manifests in hyper-focus, hyper fixating on one topic and “galaxy brain.” These “superpowers” allow me to turn ideas into business ideas and be a business springboard for others. Not so much the “SQUIRREL” that most folks jump to when they hear about ADHD.

It’s why I’m great with logistics and risk-assessment. I think of everything that could go wrong and prepare for if everything, well, did go wrong. Which is super helpful during event work because that compost bag Friday forgot about? There’s two in the dump bucket.

All of these mental quirks helped me create a  soothing sanctuary for my own brain and other differently-wired brains. It’s one of the few reasons I’m able to live within 400 square feet here in Seattle. I hope you join me to see just how I’ve managed over the last year.

Wrapping It Up!

  • Lesson One: When looking for an apartment, be prepared to move fast.
    • Do your research because listings in hot cities will not last long.
    • Have your paperwork ready because you may only have hours to move on a space.
    • Have a friend in the city just in case the rental requirements require an in-person walk-through.
    • Be prepared for a lot of time spent on Zillow or Craigslist.
  • Lesson Two: Vacuum-pack bags are a Godsend.
  • Lesson Three: Crossing three time zones wears on you.
    • Take care of yourself. Jet Lag is a cruel mistress.
    • Do not forget to take your vitamins.
    • Bring Vitamin D if you’re moving to the PNW. It’s gloomy up here.
  • Lesson Four: Amazon Prime pays for itself when buying furniture in a hurry.
  • Lesson Five: Seattle Winters are Brutal.
  • Lesson Six: Shipping your car across the country is expensive.
  • Lesson Seven: Asking for help does not mean you’re Weak.
  • Lesson Eight: My ADHD won’t look like Your ADHD.

In closing, your relocation story will not look like mine. Your timeline will not look like mine. Your rental experience, god, I hope it isn’t like mine. But if you prepare yourself ahead of time, you’ll have what you need to make that huge move.

Update: May 2019. No regrets. I found my tribe here and I’m pretty sure they’d SKIN ME if I left.