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3 Things I’ve Splurged on During Quarantine

Grocery Delivery

It never crossed my mind before the pandemic to have groceries delivered. We’re two adults in our early thirties with no kids and pretty flexible schedules. In fact, we enjoyed going to the grocery store. It was our thing.

When March hit, my anxiety about going into public spaces went through the roof. We didn’t need to go out. I was already used to doing a huge once-a-month Costco run. We’d also do smaller, weekly trips to Winco and the natural foods store to pick up the things we couldn’t get at Costco.

So we gave Instacart a try and haven’t looked back. We still maintain our Costco membership and shop via sameday.costco.com (run by Instacart). It’s also far cheaper than ordering from Costco through Instacart’s platform.

And, as before, we continue to do smaller orders every week or two to pick up the things Costco doesn’t carry. Things like cilantro, wine, vegan ice cream, random types of beans — you get the picture.

In July, I spent $99 on a year of Instacart Express. This was a great move as it eliminates the delivery fee and lowers the service fee on every order.

I’ve started socking away an extra $7.62 per month to pay for next year’s yearly subscription cost. You know — just in case we’re still in this pickle next year.

I make sure to tip our grocery delivery folks between 15%-20%. It’s an expense I’m happy to pay since we’ve shifted entirely to eating at home.

Kobo Reader

In pre-COVID life, I cherished my weekend trips to the library. My partner worked on Sundays, so I’d take that day to recharge.

I would fill a reusable mug with herbal tea or coffee, grab a tote bag, and head out to the most magical place in the world. I’d spend an hour or so rifling through shelves, grabbing more books than I could possibly read. I’d flip through crafting manuals and how-to guides, feeling the thrill of possibility between the covers.

When I lost that, I felt like I’d lost a part of my soul. I kept rooting through my bookshelves hoping for something new and novel to appear. But every week, it was the same old stuff. And buying books I know I’m only going to read once isn’t my jam.

I’d gifted my partner’s mom my e-reader a few years ago and hadn’t gotten around to replacing it. I hadn’t needed to.

Finally, I bit the bullet and splurged on a Kobo Libra H2O in July. I even bought a cute case for it.

My Kobo e-reader inside its folding origami case.

That first week, I blew through 2 books in a reading frenzy. It hooks up via Overdrive to my library, so I can still browse for books online and sync them to my device. 10/10 would recommend a Kobo Reader for any reading enthusiast.

High-Quality Crafting Supplies

Since the pandemic started, I’ve also started doing more crafting. When I was working in the office, the combination of being around people and commuting used to completely drain my energy.

Now, despite being tired at the end of the work day, I have slightly more energy to pursue random hobbies.

  • Making earrings, magnets, and sculptures out of polymer clay
  • Creating designs for an Etsy store I started this year

Creating designs means I’ve had to pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe Illustrator. I’ll be honest — I battle with this line item every month.

I’m always trying to cut subscription costs. I’ll go through phases of cancelling my go-to streaming services and signing up for free trials of others. So to commit to a monthly subscription of Illustrator is a huge deal for me.

I’ve tried going without or using open source programs like Gimp. However, it’s the industry standard for a reason. Learning how to use it to create fun and interesting designs has been so therapeutic.

In addition, my foray into the world of polymer clay has required a good chunk of up-front investment. Between acrylic paints, sculpting tools, jewelry-making supplies and hardware, and various types of Sculpey clays, I’ve probably spent over a hundred dollars on crafting with clay. But it’s been a wonderful hobby for my boyfriend and I to work on together while we enjoy music or silly reality TV in the background.

Three polymer clay crafts I've made: the bust of a cartoonish white dog, black metal-inspired earrings, and glow-in-the-dark magnets (an alien, a Gameboy, and a ghost).
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Frugality House Hacking Retirement

Life in the Times of COVID-19

To summarize, we’re a little over 5 weeks into self-isolation. The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was identified on February 28th.

By the week of March 9, my boyfriend was starting to feel ill-at-ease about the situation unfolding; he was persistent in asking me to start working from home, but I still felt uncomfortable making that request. By mid-week, two of my coworkers informed me that they’d made the decision to work remote.

It was a Thursday when I decided I wasn’t going to return the next day. I didn’t speak to my boss about it outright — just grabbed all my food from the work fridge into my backpack, put what I couldn’t carry into the freezer, and left with the expectation that it would be a while before I’d be back.

That weekend, I privately messaged our office manager to ask if we were going to join other tech companies in closing our office; the response wasn’t definitive. But on Sunday night I got the email announcing mandatory work from home.

Except for a couple of errands in which we practiced extreme social distancing and precautionary measures, we’ve both been fully at home since March 13th.

Work

My boyfriend got laid off when the retail store he works at was closed on the 17th or 18th. Rather than it being a blow, we were ridiculously grateful that he could stay safe and away from the general public.

Side note: a pandemic is not a time to be buying ukeleles, people.

His unemployment application has been filled out, but we’re still waiting for a status on the funds.

We’re highly fortunate that my job can be done remotely and that we can afford our necessary expenses on my income alone.

I was surprised to receive a raise during my performance review last week. Because I’ll now be salaried and the income will be less subject to my own personal whims, I’ll end up pulling in an extra ~12-15k per year. Despite my deep hesitation about being a salaried employee, I’m taking the offer to ensure our stability.

The gratitude I feel to have this job is accompanied by a deep survivor’s guilt. Why am I still employed, and safely able to work in my home, when so many people don’t have that luxury?

I need funnel some extra money to helping others; I’ll be trying to figure out where I can donate that will have the greatest impact on helping others.

Pausing the House Hunt

This doesn’t feel like the right time to continue with our house hunt, so we’re putting this goal on pause. We’re just keeping everything extra in the bank right now. If we need to use the house fund for an emergency, so be it.

We’ll resume the hunt next year (I’m assuming) if and when things return to a less-nightmarish state.

Food

Groceries, where do I begin with you?

Groceries have been a huge inner battle for me. We started using Instacart when we began self-isolating because of their no-contact delivery.

However, I feel extremely guilty about passing off my chores to other people because of my fear of going to the grocery store. I’m making sure to tip well, and placing larger orders infrequently.

We also found a local restaurant food supplier that extended their services to supplying residential customers. Beans and rice are the base of many of our meals, so the fact that all of our bins were running low made me jump on the opportunity to get in a large order with this company. (I wasn’t able to find beans or rice on any other grocery website.)

Our order looked something like this:

  • 50 lb lentils
  • 50 lb white rice
  • 50 lb black beans
  • 25 lb rolled oats
  • 25 lb garbanzo beans
  • 50 lb flour
  • 2 gallons vinegar
  • 2 gallons bleach
  • A box of food prep gloves
  • 2 16 oz. tubs of our favorite local salsa
  • 5 lb each of macaroni and spaghetti
  • A variety of produce: frozen okra, frozen spinach, pink lady apples, bell peppers, avocados, and zucchini

The order was over $300, but having the food handy has brought us so much peace of mind.

Now we just need to worry about keeping it safe and well-preserved.

Retirement Investing

I’ve just stopped looking at my Fidelity dashboard for the most part. Every now and then I’ll log in, but I don’t have much anxiety on this front. I know the market falls and rises, and this too shall pass.

After a precipitous drop from its high of nearly $15,000, the value of my Roth IRA has been trying to make a comeback. As of today, it’s at a little over $12,000.

My balance history over the last two years, showing a steady rise from around $2,000 to nearly $15,000, with a steep drop to around $10,000 just before April 2020.

I do find it highly amusing that the developers at Fidelity moved the ‘Your Balance History’ section to the bottom of the dashboard multiple times over the last month — I’m assuming to keep people from panicking.

Categories
Frugality House Hacking

The House Hunt Begins + Checking My Privilege

Let me start this post off by saying — I wasn’t expecting any help from my family when I started saving for a down payment.

When I talked to my mom and dad on the phone (separately, as they’re divorced) about my wild rental real estate dreams, they’d say, “Wow, that sounds like a great idea!” But that was that.

I’d tell them I wasn’t ready to buy anytime soon, but that I wanted to start saving now.

I’d worry to my mom about my plan to stop contributing to my Roth IRA for the next year while saving for a multifamily property. She murmured her worry but said, “Well, if it’s only temporarily…”

My Family Privilege

I’ve been blessed all my life to have a financially stable family. I’ve never wanted for anything. And they supported me financially through college so that I could graduate debt-free.

I wasn’t good with managing money in college, so I still got myself into a mess with credit cards while trying to live the carefree, fun life in college. I collected tons of late payment and overdraft fees along the way.

But since college I’d been trying to make my way in the world without turning to them for help.

I continued to make idiotic decisions with credit cards, repeatedly got myself into deeper debt buying crap I didn’t need, and make a ton of other dumb money mistakes.

But I figured my shit out eventually and have been on solid financial footing for the last 2.5 years. 🙌🏽

Mamá to the Rescue

When he heard about my plans to save for a property, my coworker was kind enough to refer me to his realtor friend. I was kind of iffy about contacting him since we were at least a year away from being able to afford a down payment, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a meeting and ask some questions.

I told my mom I was thinking of giving him a call.

It must not have occurred to her that I was really serious about purchasing a rental property in the next few years, because she immediately said, “I had no idea you were thinking so soon! Well, I have a proposition for you…”

And then came her offer to contribute money for the down payment. 😭

I couldn’t even believe it — I was so blown away and immensely grateful for my mom’s generosity and support. Gracias, mamá. 💕

The Current Numbers

My mom said that she would most likely be able to contribute 25k toward a down payment. (Holy shit.)

Assuming I get pre-approved for a $325,000 home — which is what my realtor estimated — that would cover the 3.5% down payment (for an FHA loan) and closing costs.

$11,375 (down payment) + $9750 (closing costs of 3% purchase price) = $21,125

I’m not going to stop saving though. Since January, I’m at a little over $4,000 saved out of my own pocket. That’s 83% of my goal to reach $5000 by June!

Screenshot of YNAB savings goal showing $4163 saved of my goal to reach $5000 by June.

I’m just going to keep on going, since I’d rather have too much saved than not enough. Especially considering there are going to be other costs involved — inspections, possible repairs and renovations, vacancies, etc.

Plus, the more money that can stay in my mom’s pocket, the better. 💰👩🏽

Next Steps

I spent a whopping 3-4 hours yesterday filling out mortgage applications. It was brutal.

Never have I had greater regret about having 4 separate accounts at different banks and credit unions. Having to upload 2 months of statements for each account, and then having to enter separate savings and checking account balances for each institution — TIMES 3 APPLICATIONS.

I was a Grumpy McGrumperson. I straight up removed one lender from my list too, because I was over it and their application interface sucked. 🙅‍♀️

That was yesterday, so I expect I’ll receive the results sometime this week. I still have some documents to upload that I need to track down. (Crossing my fingers that I saved my W2’s from way back in 2018.)

For now I’m just bookmarking houses and twiddling my thumbs.