How to Vacuum your Fridge.
March 31, 2008, 8:36 am
Filed under: daily | Tags: , ,

I found myself vacuuming my fridge this weekend. Not with a full sized sweeper, but with a dust buster. I realized it was time to oh, you know, prepare to move. And we hadn’t cleaned the fridge since oh, never. Gross, right? Oh well. Clean it I did. It is now so sparkling clean inside and out that you could probably eat in it, if you wanted. However, I found a layer of crumbs at the very bottom, under the produce drawers, and decided that vacuuming them up would be easier.

So I did. ROOMMATE! came in and laughed at me. If only we had a camera that had batteries. OH WELL. Use your imagination. Whatever you think it looked like, it probably did.

We got a lot done this weekend. Cleaning, packing, organizing, throwing stuff away (I believe in the SCORCHED EARTH policy of moving). And yet, after 9 hours of hard work on Saturday, I feel that the apartment is less organized than it was before.

And then, I found five dollars! Except, I actually did. In my book shelf. One has to wonder how that happened. One also has to wonder how my book collection has grown so much since I moved here 2 years. Oh wait, just kidding. I’m an English major, and a future librarian. I THINK IT’S PRETTY CLEAR HOW IT HAPPENED.

The next few weeks are going to involve:

1. Finishing up my undergraduate career. (NO FINALS, THOUGH!)

2. Moving (pick up keys on April 14th, begin to slowly move carloads of crap over, do all the furniture on the 19th, finish cleaning old apartment during finals week.

3. Turn 22 (APRIL 13th, MARK IT DOWN.)

4. Graduate (Bio ceremony on the 26th, English ceremony on the 27th)

5. Go home for a week, have a graduation party with The Family.

I also need to deal with my mother. She’s not dealing well with The Shacking Up of 2008. She knows better than to be explicitly pissed at me for it, but she is. She thinks I’m living in sin and making a mistake. Maybe I am. But her biggest concern isn’t that, it’s more what the rest of the world thinks of me and her. She thinks the rest of the world (coughTheFamilycough) thinks I’m a slut for doing this. And she thinks that they think that she’s a bad mother for allowing it. So, her method of dealing with it is calling me up and complaining about people asking her what I’m doing and how they don’t need to be so nosy, ZOMG. I have had to tell her repeatedly to breathe and go have a drink. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THE NUTTY.

Blah. I also need to figure out how I am going to finance graduate school? At least for the first semester? Blah.

hate. hate hate hate. hate. poo. there we go. blog blog blog, Internet Internet Internet. ANGRY NOISES.


March 28, 2008, 1:38 pm
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I just filled out my FAFSA for grad school. Pray to your gods that THEY FUND ME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. And by that, I mean entirely.

Thank you. Carry on.

How I Know I am Growing Up
March 27, 2008, 3:26 pm
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1. I just set up the utilities for Fort Dormont. With my social security number and everything.

2. My new lease does not have any co-signers on it.

3. Bear bought a car. It will be living in my driveway here in South Oakland until we move to Fort Dormont. (PS. There is not actually any borough named Fort Dormont. We’re moving to the borough of Dormont, just south of Pittsburgh, in a few weeks. The boys wanted to name the new digs Fort Dormont. They are a) more numerous than me; and b) bigger/stronger than I am, so they won).

4. My boyfriend has a real job. With his own insurance. And a car to get there in. Making paint, or epoxy resins. Or maybe he’s just sniffing glue. Who knows with chemists?

5. I have spent an hour comparing the prices/features of coffee pots with timers on them. For Fort Dormont. For Bear. To make coffee in the morning and save money not buying from Evil Caffeinated Enterprises of Money-Suckage. An hour. Yes.

6. I have two invitations to graduation receptions sitting on the table.

7. My mom has repeatedly said “would you just get married already?!” in exasperation. (She is not pleased with The Shacking Up of 2008, aka Fort Dormont.)

8. I AM OFFICIALLY CLASSIFIED AS A GRADUATE STUDENT IN THE LIBRARY SYSTEM! This only means something to you if you are familiar with Pitt’s library system. Undergraduates can have (most) books for 4 weeks with 3 renewals. Grad students and faculty have (most) books for the full semester. With seemingly unlimited renewals. SCORE. Must renew all current books so they won’t be due till AUGUST.

9. I am reading a finance-advice book, called “Grow Your Money: 101 Easy Tips to Plan, Save, and Invest” by Jonathan D. Pond. Highly recommend.

10. I AM GOING TO BE TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD IN 17 DAYS. Have you bought my present yet?

11. I have stopped eating McDonald’s Happy Meals. OH WAIT. Total lie. I still eat Happy Meals. A Katrina-sized portion of totally unhealthy food for less than $3! Wee!

March 26, 2008, 8:56 am
Filed under: Pittsburgh | Tags: ,

I haven’t bitched about the weather for a while!

I won’t bitch today, either! You know why? It is currently 47 degrees outside. It will go up to 51, according to Now I know that’s not record breaking. BUT! It is SEASONAL. Praise be! We’re above freezing! AND! It’s sunny!

I am going to go sacrifice a virginal pigeon or something. Maybe that will keep spring on the way. HALLELUJAH.

Financial Limitations Corollary
March 25, 2008, 9:00 am
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Yesterday, I discussed my aghast reaction to an acquaintance choosing to purchase a house with no money down, and interest only for the first 10 years. My argument was that this was wasteful, because look at the long term cost of the loan.

However, I discussed this with my father. Generally speaking, my German family is very cheap and very financially savvy.  Perhaps I am young and naive, but I may have found a time when I disagree with him.

He defended the acquaintance, saying that depending on your tax bracket, having a long, big mortgage is beneficial. For instance, if you are in a mid-level tax bracket, but you work a lot of overtime (cops, social workers, blue collar workers, etc), that overtime (according to my father) is taxed not at the tax bracket your base salary is in, but at the highest possible tax bracket. By having deductions, such as children, mortgages and things like that, you can off-set those taxes. I disagree with this. The difference between the large, long mortgage and my preferred mortgage was about $70,000. I cannot believe that that mortgage will save you more than that in terms of taxes. Again, perhaps I am young and naive. Before I buy a house myself, I will have a discussion with a tax specialist to see what his opinion would be. Chances are, it won’t save me any money because neither Bear nor I will be working in jobs that involve a substantial amount of overtime, if any at all.

Therefore, if you’re just trying to lower your yearly taxes, but the cost of the loan per year is more than what you’ll be saving in tax deductions, won’t you be coming out behind in terms of total money?  I know that both I and my father are opposed to giving money to the gov’t. But if giving more to the gov’t and less to the bank means I have more in my pocket, THAT IS WHY I AM GOING TO DO.

There is also the opportunity cost. Whenever you buy anything, be it a latte or a house, you have lost the opportunity to spend that money on something else. If you buy a latte, now you’re 5 dollars poorer than you were before. If you only had $10 in the first place, now you have lost the opportunity to buy anything that is more than $5. So, if you have $20,000 sitting around, and you spend that on a down payment on a house, you have lost the opportunity to spend that money on something else. Like a new kitchen for your new house. Or a new car. Or something else fun like that. So, many people look at that opportunity cost and say that the down payment just isn’t worth it.

However, there is a hidden opportunity cost. This is an idea I have learned from Trent at, and he was introduced to it by the book “Your Money or Your Life”. Every time you spend money, you lose the opportunity to use that money for something else. I just repeated myself, right? It goes further than that. You lose the opportunity to spend the money on YOUR LIFE. Something you truly want to do with yourself, not that temporary sugar and caffeine high from your latte. You lose the opportunity in another 20 years to retire early, and start a new career in something you truly love. Or, the opportunity to buy that dream vacation home in the Bahamas. Or, the opportunity to spend your retirement watching your grandbabies. Whatever it is that you truly wish you could do in your life, by spending your money unwisely today, you are paying the opportunity cost of those lost dreams.

I would argue that by not putting down that $20,000 on your mortgage and instead using it for a kitchen, you are paying the opportunity cost of reaching your genuine dreams. That cost comes in the form of the extra money you pay on your mortgage. Yes, you pay the opportunity cost initially by choosing down payment over kitchen. But, the secret opportunity cost is what you pay 30 years later when you don’t have that extra $70,000 in the bank, earning interest over those years, to fund your new business venture or space flight. It all comes down to the choices you make: what is it you want in life? The $20,000 kitchen, or the space flight? If the $20,000 kitchen is more important, then you ought to make that choice. But in the grand scheme of things, I would prefer the opportunity later in life to have an extra $70,000 to do with as I please, rather than paying a max amount of interest.

Another point my parents brought up was another possible choice. The acquaintance has a child, and is planning for more relatively soon. In fact, that is why they bought the new house: the old one could not possibly fit another baby. By paying 10 years of interest only, the acquaintance’s wife could stop working, or cut down to part time, in order to have more babies and get all of the children into grade school. If they didn’t do that, they might not be able to afford the loss of her salary. Since they need to have the babies now (biologically speaking) and not wait 30 years, it would make sense to do that.

As seemingly unrelated aside, I have a story. Last month, Bear and I  went to his home town for the weekend. His sister has identical twin boys, who are about 15 months old. They are adorable, but they are also rambunctious. We took them to the mall so that Bear could get his hair cut. His parents didn’t have the stroller with them that weekend, so we had to carry and/or attempt to restrain the boys so they wouldn’t run off. 15 month old little boys are resistant to holding hands, too. Independence and such. So, we had leashes for them. They were cute leashes: they look like a monkey is strapped to their banks, and then you use the tail to hold onto them. However, the tail is so low that if you pull too hard, you pull their feet out from under them. That’s mean, so we turned them upside down and had the tail on top, head on the bottom, so it looked like the monkey was sniffing their little butts. Awww. Generally speaking, the idea of putting children on leashes is a little disconcerting to me. They’re children, not dogs. However. When you are in a public place with two rambunctious toddlers who don’t respond well to verbal commands yet, and you want to avoid losing them, you have to put them on leashes. It’s one thing when you have one toddler, or when you have multiple children of various ages. But with twins? Good lord, the insanity! When we were putting them back in the monkey leashes after eating some lunch, I overheard a woman nearby say, “Oh, I hate when people put little kids in leashes. It’s just wrong.” VALUES JUDGMENT. Her values are such that putting a kid in a leash is wrong. Ok, fine. But I see you have two girls, about 5 years apart. It was probably fairly easy for you to wrangle the first one when she was this age. By the time the 2nd one was this age, the older one was around 7, and the younger one probably adored her, making it easy to have the older one help wrangle. Right? Not so with twins. Don’t judge, and keep your mouth shut. Plenty of people, Bear included, were put in leashes as children and they turned out fine. You know why? Because they didn’t get lost in a mall, abducted by a stranger, and then raped and murdered. You don’t know what it’s like with twin boys. I was a little pissed about that. I decided to try to avoid making values judgments about other people, especially out loud.

So, long story short, my parents reminded me without saying it that I don’t know the exact financial, tax and family situation in which these people are at the moment. Without being privy to their values and priorities, I don’t have any place in making judgments. Since I try to avoid values-based judgments (see above), I ought not judge them for choosing to spend more money in the long run on their mortgage. It is their money, they are free to do with it as they please. Knowing them, I am sure that they are not wasting it on booze and hookers, as my father so eloquently put it, nor are they racking up ridiculous credit card debt. Therefore, they are still making wise financial decisions, even if they are decisions I would not make.

But, I still hate interest, and I am going to sacrifice for 15 years in order to make sure that I can have my mortgage and student loans paid of ASAP. That’s important to me. I am willing to pay the opportunity cost of the nicer vacations, the bigger house and the luxury cars.

Financial Limitations
March 24, 2008, 1:41 pm
Filed under: daily | Tags: ,

I am German. That could mean a number of things to you:

1. That I must be a Nazi. HA! Funny story! My Grandma’s family came from the part of Germany that Hitler was from (Bavaria). Not only that, but they were from the next little village over from his. So, because of that, Grandma regularly tells me that we’re related to Hitler*, because “you know, all those people inter-bred and everything. But shh! Don’t tell anyone! They might be disturbed by it.” She usually tells me this in a public place. With other people around. Loudly enough for them to hear. “Hokay, Grandma! Won’t tell anyone!” Of course, if you use that logic, then everyone in Europe is related to Hitler. Going further back, we’re ALL related to Hitler, because we’re all humans! Whoa! No, we are NOT related to Hitler. Or the pope.

2. That my family collects large quantities of clock and beersteins. No, Emily, that’s just what YOUR Germans do.

3. That my family is painfully cheap, to a fault. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! My grandfather was convinced that he could get a better deal on furniture if he didn’t buy anything that matched. Brown and orange sofa with a red plaid chair? They MUST give you a deal because you have such terrible taste! We never followed that logic. Nor did he ever get a good deal on it. THAT’S HOW STINGY WE ARE. Anything to save a buck.

With that in mind, spending money gives me a stomachache. Spending large quantities of money makes me ill. Debt makes me pass out. I hate the idea of buying money. That’s what debt is. Somebody gives you money, and you pay for it. You don’t just pay them back, you give them EXTRA money for giving you the money in the first place. So, if you’re buying money you don’t need (for instance, going into large amounts of credit card debt to support your latte habit), you’re being exceptionally wasteful.

Now, I do believe that certain amount of debt is good. Student loans, for instance. It’s financing your future. Low rates, blah blah. Without that money, you can’t go to college (or whatever higher ed you want), and without that degree, you have an extremely limited earning potential. Student loans are an investment in your future. Totally worth it.

Mortgages are the same thing. As long as you don’t get caught up in the tail end of a bubble (and bubbles ALWAYS burst), your property will increase in value over the long haul. Financing that with a mortgage, and you will have a nice amount of change AND a roof over your head AND a warm place to pee. An investment in your future. Totally worth it.

However, that doesn’t mean you should pay more for it than you need to. I had a conversation with someone over the weekend who recently bought a house. A lovely house. Beautiful house. Great place to have a family. Et cetera. However, he told me in no uncertain terms that he does not believe in putting any money down for anything that he finances. That it is a waste of money, because you throw away your money and then never see it again. I was aghast. Uh. Gassed. I had to bite my tongue to keep my jaw from hitting the floor, because that is the exact opposite of good finances. He has the money to put down a down payment. But instead of doing that, he’s spending it to BUY the x amount of money to pay for the house.


Let’s do some math! Say you want to buy a house. The asking price is $100,000. You get a 30 year, fixed rate (5%) mortgage on the house. That means that the bank gives you $100,000 for the house. You are now $100,000 in the hole. The cost of that money comes in the form of interest, which is 5%. The monthly payment is found by this formula, as given to me by

c = (r / (1 − (1 + r) N))P

c stands for monthly payment. r is the monthly interest rate, as expressed by percentage/100/12 months (5/100/12= 0.24). N is the period of time in months (360). P is the amount borrowed (100,000).

So, your monthly payment would be (0.24/(1- (1+ 0.24)^-360)) x 100,000, which equals, as calculated by Coldwell Banker’s mortgage calculator, $536.

Now, if you multiply that by 360 (the number of times you will write out that check over 30 years), you get: $192,960. What is that number? That is the total cost of the loan. You are borrowing $100,000, and they charged you $92,960 for it. Just think about that for a little. You spent $92,960 to buy $100,000. You nearly doubled the price of the house. Nauseating, isn’t it?

However, if you pay a down payment, your cost will go down. What is a down payment? Essentially, you are paying for a portion of the cost of the house, and taking a loan out for the remainder. A recommended percentage is 20% of the price. So, if you want to buy a $100,000 house, you ought to put down $20,000. That’s a lot of money, no? Of course it is! However, look at what it saves you. Instead of buying $100,000, you are only buying $80,000. Plug in those numbers, and you’ll be paying $429 a month. That’s only a savings of $107/month. That doesn’t seem worth it, does it? Doling out $20,000 bucks in order to save $100? True. I will grant that there is sticker shock there.

However, multiply that times 360. You get $154,440. That is the total cost of the loan. You are still paying a lot of extra money, still. However, by spending that $20,000, you just saved yourself $38,520 between the two loans. Overall, the difference in cost is $18,520. The more money you put down initially, the more you save.

You can also save money by decreasing the length of the loan. By speeding up the rate you pay, you obviously increase your monthly payments. However, since the interest is charged per month of the loan, the shorter the period is, the less interest is charged, making the loan cheaper.

The same loan ($100,000) over 15 years rather than 30 costs $729 a month. That is almost a $200 difference per month, which might seem hard to swallow. However, over the course of 180 months, you will pay $131,220. And that’s without a down payment. With a 20% down payment, your monthly payments would be $632. The cost of the loan will be $113,760.

Now. Look at those numbers. The first number, $192,960 is with the acquaintance’s theory (no down payment because you never see the money again, long loan period). The last number with my theory (at least 20% down payment, short loan period) is $113,760. That is a huge difference. Essentially, if you choose to have $20,000 in your pocket at the beginning of the loan, and a few hundred dollars extra a month, you are paying for that luxury with $79,200.

So tell me how a down payment is money that is taken from you, never to be seen again? Maybe it’s just my German stinginess coming out, but I think that that’s actually the definition of INTEREST.

*Funny enough, the new pope, Benedict, was also from that general vicinity. People made the same conclusions about him. He’s from Bavaria! He must be related to Hitler! Pope Hitler! However, when I pointed out that Benedict was from there, and there was a good chance that he was related to us (my dad maintains that he’s the spitting image of HIS grandfather), she said, “Oh, Katie. Don’t be silly. We’re not related to the POPE!”

March 23, 2008, 10:14 pm
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As inspired by Rachel at, I am doing a bit of listing.

Things I won’t blog about:

1. Any of the gossip-mill drama that occurs in my extended family.

2. Bear’s family. At all.

3. My job, particularly derogatory commentary about coworkers/bosses. Random patrons, on the otherhand? Totally fair game.

4. My on-going weight maintenance.

Things I will blog about:

1. Food. I love food.

2. Bear. Excessively.

3. Books.

4. My menstrual periods and associated fun.

Why won’t I blog about certain things? Because one must draw lines. I drew those lines in my head early on. Granted, I have only been writing this for 2 months now, but having boundaries is essential. I believe that is the case in terms of raising children, and it’s also the case in maintaining yourself as the kind of human being your parents (should have) raised you to be. Sometimes my boundaries are a little illogical and asinine (like refusing to call people in Bear’s family other in the case of emergency), but they are there because I need them.

This is why I won’t blog about those things.

1. My family is special in that there are so few of us per generation. Because of this, we have kept in close communication with extended family members. You probably don’t see and/or know your 2nd cousins very well. I do. You might not know your grandmother’s first cousin, once removed. Mine is coming to my graduation party. He’s in his 80’s. However, that also means that the family gossip-mill runs fiercely because you find it hard to care about the sensibilities of people who aren’t in your direct clan. I have lots of tasty family gossip. In case my family ever finds this, I don’t want them getting pissy with me because I hung the dirty laundry all over The Internet.

2. I also don’t want Bear’s family to find this and get pissy with me for sharing their laundry, dirty or not, all over The Internet. Bear is close to his family. Maintaining a relationship with them is extremely, vitally important to me.

3. Dude. Have you found That’s why. (However, she might have gotten fired for blogging about her bosses, but she is also supporting her family in what appears to be a very comfortable fashion BY BLOGGING. She landed on her feet, eventually, which is excellent for her. Probably isn’t so great for everyone else. She is a blogging superstar, afterall.)

4. Ah. On-going weight maintenance. I am too thin. I have to work hard to eat enough. Hate, hate, blah blah, whatever. I can drop weight by thinking too hard. I know, I’m your worst enemy and I must actually be anorexic. Wrong. Family trait, plus I’m a poor, busy college student with not enough time to eat, nor enough money to eat correctly. I try my best, and it is constantly on the top of my mind, but I’m not going to bore/irritate The Internet by bemoaning being too thin when most of The Real World has the opposite problem. Because my tiara is too tight? And this wad of fifties is just too thick to put in my pocket? And these golden shoes are giving me blisters? Right? Right. Won’t go there.