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fourth anniversary, and finances

I mentioned in my post last Sunday that it was the fourth anniversary of my arrival in Seattle, and that I'd have to write more about that "tomorrow". I knew at the time that I shouldn't have said that last part, and sure enough here it is a week later. Oh well.

Last year, to quote that entry, "I marked the occasion with a long walk through parts of Seattle I haven't really been in before, though that hadn't really been my intent." This year I had decided in advance that I wanted to do something similar. As I've already done a fair amount of walking around downtown, I figured I needed a different part of Seattle, but I wasn't sure where. I asked John whether there were any places in Seattle he's always intended to visit but hadn't actually done so in all the years he'd been here. He didn't end up thinking of any, but did say he and Elizabeth would be happy to join me for whatever I thought of.

I ended up deciding we should go for a walk in Seward Park. This is a peninsula jutting into the southern part of Lake Washington, across from the mid-part of Mercer Island. (Click here for the Google Maps page.) I'd driven by the entrance once a few years ago, while out just exploring new parts of Seattle, but had never actually spent time there. It turned out that neither John nor Elizabeth had ever been there either, so it was a nice new experience for all of us. There's a pathway going around the shoreline and several trails through the old-growth forest that covers the peninsula. It was reminiscent of Stanley Park in Vancouver BC, although that park is about ten times larger and, like the Vancouver area in general, more dramatic geographically.

The day was much more restful than last year's four-hour walk downtown, though. We spent at most a couple hours walking in the park. Before going to the park, we had brunch at B&O Espresso, one of my favorite restaurants and certainly my favorite place for brunch, and after the park we went to Kai's Lounge, one of our favorite hangouts, for drinks. It was a thoroughly pleasant afternoon all around.

Because I spent the afternoon with company, I didn't spend time thinking about my time here in Seattle so far, or about places I still wanted to go, like I did last year. However, I did include visiting other places in the Northwest as one of my goals for this year. I just hope I can afford to do any travelling this year. I finished last month with a couple hundred dollars extra, which I attributed to getting the raise at the beginning of February. Then a few days ago I got a letter from the condo association pointing out how I hadn't yet paid my dues that I should have on the first and I should send them in immediately. Oops. With the coupon book for the dues in a file holder, I'd completely forgotten about it, and that was why I had extra money - some of which I'd already spent on new jeans (in fairness, I had to buy new jeans no matter what, as my existing pairs had developed holes in the knees) and also on a few new (used) CDs.

So between the late condo dues and also my high electric bill, I've now used up all my paychecks for the month and I've had to pull some money out of my small savings account to cover the rest of the month. Last month, before I got the first paycheck with my raise, I got my Quicken account caught up from the last time I'd updated it in the summer. Now I need to update it for this month, and then use it to work up a budget. From the analysis I've already done so far, it seems that I should be just making ends meet now that I have the raise, so I'm not quite sure why I instead seem to be just overspending my income.

I also started my taxes a couple weeks ago, and realized immediately that I was missing a form - I hadn't received one for the 401(k) fund that I had cashed out last summer. I had asked the office manager at work to update my address with them, but apparently she never did; although when I called them about it, it turns out she probably couldn't have, because they treat the accounts (my old one and my new one with 3sharp) wholly separately even though they're both for me. I got that straightened out and have the form now, so I'll finish my taxes later this week (I was going to tonight but TurboTax is down for maintenance). I do know so far that I'm going to have to pay taxes, contrary to the claims of numerous people about being able to expect a good refund as a first-time home buyer; but I figure that's because I never actually paid taxes on the place last year (the closing date was late enough that the previous owner paid them), so maybe next year I'll get a refund. On the positive side, so far TurboTax says I won't owe very much, so it comes down to whether they withheld enough when I cashed out the 401(k).

I've gotten over the dismay from realizing I'd forgotten my dues and thus would be "broke" this month, so right now I'm inclined to feel that things are going to work out. I do keep veering from hope to dismay, however, and it's getting quite distressing. I'm feeling insecure a lot because of the uncertainty of continuing to make ends meet and the probability of more major expenses (some kind of car or condo trouble, most likely) coming up and getting added to my credit card debt, which I'm dealing with v-e-r-y s--l--o--w--l--y. I was struck by what a trap property can be, and how risky is this bet that paying toward ownership will be better than renting a place. Much as I love my new place, I'm still not sure I made the right decision last summer, and I only hope time proves it to be the right one.


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Mar. 20th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
you pulleed the trigger...
and that is admirable. should you have waited.. hard to say, the housing market is cooling fast. at least in most regions... and including here in economically depressed central maine. one reason we put off our purchase / research another year. Though we are hoping to build new / modular. The cost of building should drop some too. so you're starpped for cash right now, I'm hoping this isn't strapped WITH the raise at work. if it is, then well my friend, you may need to, dare I say it, get another part time gig. I know it sucks, but if things are indeed that tight... maybe an extra $20 a week, might help matters. as for taxes... you should've gotten some sort of tax break from buying your condo... Did you completely cash out the 401K? if so, then... I hope you put aside like 50% of it... to be safe... last time I did thaat sort of thing, I had Mike do my taxes that year, cause I was soo screwed. : ) in other news, I switched to TAXCUT this year, it was cheaper at staples, and included the state version, which is why I use software to do my taxes anyway. the state forms confuse the hell out of me. it also included one free electronic filing after rebate. so out of pocket was less than $20. it appears to be a very similar product to turbotax. I read some reviews after buying it, and they were very comparable. turbo tax was a little bit better, but in ways that would not pertain to me.

all in all, it soulds like you need to cut some expenses, we've talked about getting the electricity bill down. I would guess at its spring, heat will be needed less. trying turning it down even now, get an extra blanket and wear a sweater. light candles, hell Lincoln did it. have you tried some of the energy efficient light bulbs? here you get a credit back instantly from the state if you buy them at walmart. its cool.

oh, how far is work, could you bike it? I have no idea how far it is and how bad the ride would be, what with the rain and all.. if there a shower at work? just a thought... it is the left coast, people do do that.
Mar. 21st, 2006 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: you pulleed the trigger...
As far as the housing market goes, I could see cooling in the sense of prices holding steady for a little while, but not actually dropping - not unless both Microsoft and Boeing closed shop, really.

I am indeed cash-strapped this month even after my raise kicked in last month, but that could just be a fluke, I need to check the numbers and make a budget. On the other hand, it did look like I was screwed and wouldn't be able to make ends meet on my old salary, right before the office manager position came up, so it probably does make sense that I'm just barely making it now. That's a major reason why I agreed to take on the office manager role.

A part-time job would be tricky, anything requiring weeknights would mean I'd have to take a position in Redmond, because I wouldn't be able to rely on making it back to Seattle in time. And some times I need to stay late at work for big projects. I'd rather see if I can break even for a while, until I can get more client-related work and then another raise, hopefully later this year.

We don't have state income taxes here, and I've been using TurboTax online, so that's fine. I did completely cash out the 401(k), and I didn't put any aside because I needed the cash for the condo purchase. It wasn't a very large amount in the 401(k) to begin with. I'll see what TurboTax says later tonight or this week, since I don't have to pay until after the next pay cycle I should be able to deal with it next month if I have to pay more. As far as the condo purchase, I don't know whether I'm missing an option, I'll have to go over it again, but it's also possible that the low amount TurboTax currently shows me owing ($58) is because of the condo tax break.

Candles, nuh uh. Not with Nimiel around.

Biking to work's not going to happen. It's 15 hilly miles, and I'm not in shape for that. I could be in shape relatively soon, true, but the other issue is that you can't cycle on the 520 bridge across the lake, you have to catch the bus. I don't know whether there's a cheaper fare if you just get the bus across the bridge, but I do know that paying for the bus each way every day would not work out cheaper than driving. No shower at work, either.
Mar. 21st, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
Re: you pulleed the trigger...
ok, well thats all my thoughts shot down... some for good reason. : ) embrace ramen noodles (.13 a package for the name brand kind)... and think again about the part time job... the 'not having a life' and working all the time is a better option than defaulting on a home loan, or having the condo association on your ass. I've got all sorts of ways to cut things out of life to save money, I've done most of them... no concerts, never going out to eat, not buying D&D online, not buying new CDs, or DVDs, not going to the movies, and grocery shopping that the store that is the center of evil on this earth (we just don't have a choice, when the price difference is that much).
Mar. 21st, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC)
in good news that isn't yours but may give you hope, i am supposed to get back in a refund everything that i paid last year for taxes (which was A LOT! ugh, just thinking about it makes me cringe, still... you're welcome to ask via email how much.). jen ended up paying a lot last year, too, because, like you, she took out a lot of saved up money to buy our place and the government taxed it as income. this year, she hired an accountant and is getting a nice, juicy refund (juicier than mine, even, but only by a little), because she can claim the property. so it may suck this year, but could be nice next year. did you know that if you had to pay last year you can claim that on this year's taxes? i was excited to find that out! turbo tax is set up differently this year and it's much nicer.

i agree with j: see where you can snip and toughen it up for a little. i have been bringing lunch to work to save for our NM trip. it's nice putting money into savings. yay for ING!
Mar. 21st, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
ya know... it's not all that painful to register with livejournal, andy... : ) giggle it only hurts when it rains out.
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