Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

My Friends are Buying Houses Series July 30, 2011

So, my friends are buying houses.  I try not to let it get to me.

Instead, I’ve invited friends to write guest posts about their home buying experiences.  I wanted to get an idea of why they decided to buy a house, what steps they took, and how they’re enjoying home ownership so far.  I’ll also collect some posts (if I can) from people who are not buying houses just yet, just to get the other side of the story.

Why am I (attempting) to make a series of blog posts about this?  Mostly because what I know about the whole home buying process is about the same amount I know about rocket science (which is not really anything, even though I should learn about both!).  And so, while I wanted to write some posts with guidance on buying a place, I realized I have zero expertise and experience on the subject.  So, really, these posts are for both you and me!

So stay tuned.  Not sure how well this will work.  I’ve already got one friend ready with a guest post, but I’m not sure how many people who aren’t personal finance bloggers will want to write about personal finance!  Let me know if you’d like to write a post!

Homeowner posts:

Katelyn Buys a House

Renter posts:

Sarah and Michael are Happy to be Renting

 

 

Update on the Housing Situation July 19, 2011

Filed under: Boston,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:10 pm

Well, a few days ago, I posted about how it was nearing the time I needed to make a definite decision on where to live.  Do I stay for a sixth (!!!) year at the place I’ve rented since I graduated from college, or do I move out with my boyfriend to a place for just the two of us?

We checked out a place the other day, which, while nice, is really small.  A lot smaller than our current place (of course it would be, for only two people) but in addition to being smaller, it would cost us twice as much to live there.  So, that experience got me all grumpy about this whole moving idea.

What are the pros to moving out?

-Our current place is nice, but it’s drafty (and expensive to heat) in the wintertime (though installing a programmable thermostat and putting that plastic window sealant on the windows helped reduce our heating costs)

-With our 4th roommate moving out to go to grad school (have a blast and get straight A’s!), we’d be down to three in the apartment.  We could try posting to/looking on craigslist, but it’s a tedious, stressful process.  It’s really hard to find a good match.

-The boyfriend and I moved into our current place when we were just friends.  And it was right after college.  Now, we’re in a serious relationship, and we’ve been out of college for a while.  So, do we need to move on from our “recent graduate” digs?  Is living with roommates just for younguns?  And should we be taking the next big step in our relationship and live like a couple by ourselves, instead of like roommates?  Is it time to grow up? And will moving out/moving to a new place together force us to grow up?

-The longer we stay, the more junk we’re going to end up accumulating; it’ll be even more painful to move out next year.

And why do we want to stay?

+Our place has lots of the things we want:  really spacious, good kitchen (spacious + dishwasher!), in-apartment laundry, great landlords, parking, plenty of storage space.

+The price is going to be hard to beat anywhere else, even if we split our current rent 3-ways (i.e. don’t worry about finding a 4th roommate).

+We’d only want to move to a place we like, that we’re happy with.  Space, amenities, price.

+We’re running out of time to find a new place.  And once we decide to stay, we can get started on figuring out where we’re going to live later. And get serious about this search this time around.

+Moving is going to be a hassle

At this point, I’m still searching PadMapper for some places to visit in the next few days.  But as the days pass, it seems less and less likely we’ll find something we’re happy with.  In the meantime, we’re also going to talk to our landlord and see if we could negotiate a month-to-month lease in case we decide to buy or move into a different apartment down the road.

I definitely saw a lot of comments on my last post saying that we should just stay here another year.  So, that’s another reason to stay, right?

Stay tuned.  I’ll update you again with our decisions.

 

Housing decision looms July 14, 2011

Filed under: Boston,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:26 pm

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time to decide if we’re going to renew our lease.  We’ll have lived in the same apartment for 5 years at the end of this lease.  Basically, I’ve lived here since graduation (with the exception of the summer right after graduation, when I stayed in a sublet steps away from Davis Square).

And why have I lived here this long?  Because this place pretty much rocks.  It’s convenient to Davis Square (okay, it’s a bit over a mile to walk, but not bad), and pretty close to the highway.  We have the top two floors of a multi-family house to share between 4 roommates. Rent is DIRT CHEAP, both because it’s split between 4 roommates and because it’s not really close to a T stop, nor is it in Boston.  Some roommates have moved out to go to grad school or buy a house, and we’ve found new ones through friends and Craigslist.  I’m pretty happy with this place.  Plus, the landlords are awesome!  They’ve come by whenever we needed anything, and are really nice people.  We sent them an email saying we were leaning towards moving out, and they sounded really sad about us leaving!

So, why would I move out?  One of our roommates is moving out to go to grad school.  We’re going to miss her!  And we’d need to look for someone new to replace her.

The other reason to move out?  Every year we say “we’re definitely moving out this time!”  And then we don’t.  And it feels like it’s time for a change.  My boyfriend and I have been living there all 5 years (in fact, we didn’t actually start dating until we were there almost a year!).  And it seems like we’re at the age/stage in our relationship where we should actually get our own place.  Timing being what it is, we couldn’t really buy a house/condo in time to move in before our lease ended.  So we’ll be looking at a new, smaller apartment.

And that’s part of the problem.  Anywhere we look wont seem as great at the place we have now.  It’ll be smaller, more expensive, farther from something (either public transit, friends’ places, the highway I take to work, or the highway my boyfriend takes to work).  And I’ve grown accustomed to having a dishwasher and laundry in my house (I swear I’ll never move into a place  that doesn’t have a washer/dryer, or into a place with coin-op laundry).  I’m spoiled, I guess.  But really, I know that having these sorts of things would keep me saner and keep the house cleaner.  Plus it’s a nightmare trying to look for a new place.

So what is it?  Laziness in looking for a new place?  Plus having to pack and move and everything?  It’s also the money.  Having a cheap rent has been one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to save so much money these past 5 years.  And I want to continue to save money so I can eventually buy a house.  And do all those other important things.

Right now, we’re still leaning towards moving out.  We’re going to check out a possible new apartment next week, and have been searching online with sites like PadMapper (it searches Craigslist and other postings and filters out places that don’t match your requirements and puts the places that match your search on a nice map).  I’m thinking back on when we found our current place, and it was lots of searching, scheduling, and driving around.  And then we just happened to refresh our Craigslist search and this place was at the top of the list.

We’ll see what happens.

How have you found your current residence?  Through friends, Craigslist, a realtor?  Would you give up certain “luxuries” (dishwasher, laundry, second bathroom) to save money?  What features are non-negotiable (gotta have them), and what things would you give up?  How do you narrow down your choices and shop for the best place?  I’ll be sure to let you know what we end up doing!

 

Trying out Credit Karma July 10, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:27 pm

A lot of people obsess about their credit score.  Some people have even made it their goal to get the “perfect FICO score” of 850.

My goal is to make sure I keep my credit history clean and my credit score high.  So I pay my bills every month on time.  I do all the right things.

Now, I know that I can access my credit reports for free.  By law, we’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) every 12 months.  You just go to annualcreditreport.com  and follow the instructions.  This is the only site authorized to provide free annual credit reports that you are entitled to under the law.  I don’t go through that other site you hear all the commercials for.  There’s usually a catch.  A catch that costs you money.  Not a fan of catches.

So, free access to my credit report.  Check.

What about my score?  Where’s that?

So there are a few different ways to find out your credit score.  If you go to annualcreditreport.com, when you access your credit report, the credit reporting agency will offer to sell you your score.  That will usually set you back $10 or so every time you want to check your score.  Also note, you’ll likely get slightly different scores from the different credit reporting agencies depending on what information they have on you and (which you’ll know, after checking your credit report) and the formula they use.

But if you’re looking for a good way to keep track of your credit score, and you don’t want to buy it every time, or sign up for one of those services, there is another way. I’d been hearing about CreditKarma for a while.  A lot of bloggers seem to like and use their service (check Bargaineering,  The Centsible Life, Paranoid Asteroid, Quarterlife Finances, and My Personal Finance Journey)  And it seemed like a pretty good deal.

You sign up, submit your personal information once (yes, that includes your SSN, but they use lots of security), and it tells you an estimate of your credit score and reviews how your credit history and financial activities impact your credit score.  You can update your credit scores every once in a while.

I started using CreditKarma back in January, when I realized I wasn’t sure how my credit usage was affecting my score. And I really just wanted to know what my score was without having to pay. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to sign up. I was nervous about giving them my SSN online. But I read their FAQ, reviewed what people have said, and understood the security they use. Also, they don’t share or sell your info.

So, what do I think? I think it’s a pretty useful service.

Pros:

  • Free access to your credit scores:  TransRisk score (calculated using your TransUnion credit report), VantageScore (score calculated by TransUnion using a formula developed by all 3 credit reporting agencies), and your Auto Insurance Score.
  • Trusted website:  my info is safe
  • Gives you guidance on why your score is where it is
  • Tracks your score up and down as you refresh it every time.
  • Explains why your score changed since the last time you checked
  • Gives you a simulator to estimate how things you do could change your score (for better or worse)
  • Their newest feature shows recommended credit cards for your credit score, and a predictor of how likely you are to get a specific credit card if you apply for it

Cons:

  • Only an estimate based on your TransUnion credit report.  If you’re looking for your FICO score, you won’t get it there.
  • Not all cards report your credit limit, which could skew your score down when it makes your credit utilization ratio higher
  • They’re able to provide free scores by partnering up with sponsors (usually banks and credit card companies).  So you’ll see “featured credit cards” on the site, but they do make it clear that those are sponsored ads/recommendations.

Bottom line: I like this service. The price tag is great (free), and the explanations they give about where your score is is helpful. When you actually plan on making a big purchase and get a loan, I’d recommend buying the actual scores beforehand so you don’t have any surprises.  But in the meantime, go ahead and find out your score!

Let me know what you think.  Have you used this service?  Do you like it?  Do you have an alternate, preferred site?

(Note, this is not a paid post from CreditKarma.  I just like checking out new websites and telling people what I think about them.  And I think this site does what it says it does.  Good enough for me!)

 

 
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