Winning Tickets

Last Friday I won 2 tickets to an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls. The game was this evening.

To keep expenses to a minimum I ate a meal at home before the game (plus the food at the Verizon Center is sold at a premium).

The performance of my Wizards was so-so. At least they played with some heart. The result was not unexpected: the Bulls 98 & the Wizards 88.

What was an unexpected surprise was when a young lady approached the row where my brother and I sat. She asked if I won tickets from ESPN Sports Talk 980. I replied yes. She asked for my name, which I gave and highlighted my name. Then she asked me to ask the others: if they won tickets from ESPN Sports Talk 980. Turns out they did as well. She obtained their names and checked them off the list.

About 5-7 minutes later this young woman returned with gift bags for each of us. The gift bag contained a t-shirt, pen and key chain among other things!

Winning the tickets was good enough, Receiving the gift bag was unexpected delight.


Cash Back

I have one credit card, a Master Card.   When I signed up for this card, I opted to receive “cash back.”

Logged onto to website the other day and had a $12 credit.  Odd.  Turns out, $67 “cash back” was deposited into my account.  When I receive “cash back” – and I always forget when this will occur – it is like Christmas.

What a nice way to begin 2012 🙂



Financial Planning Derailed

In an earlier post, Extreme Budgeting I discussed how I had “budgeted” my 26 paychecks for 2012. I listed every expenditure I could think of (subscriptions, auto insurance, car registration, dental appointments, memberships, etc.). I knew I didn’t have wiggle room for anything unexpected (Dave Ramsey is wagging his finger at me for not having that 3-6 month emergency fund). Well, you can guess what happened.

My dryer stopped working. Yup, this is a necessity that required immediate attention. So I called Sears. Technician stopped by last Saturday (also paid to have the washer checked). Total cost (including purchase of a lint filter) $218. Not a lot of money, but I didn’t have an extra $200 and I was not going to borrow from my mini emergency fund. The only other option: reallocate funds.

For the first time in more than two years, I didn’t contribute to my car fund ($3,600 in that account). And I didn’t make an extra principal payment on the 2nd Trust.

Had planned to fund my house maintenance account starting in September once I had saved $5,000 in the car maintenance fund. Instead, starting next pay period I will reallocate 3/4 of the car maintenance fund to the house maintenance fund.

Financial plans derailed but still moving.


In preparing my condo for the new tenant, I had the option of cleaning the unit myself or hiring someone to clean the unit.

Since renting the unit in May 2005 I have always cleaned the unit, with the assistance of my mother. This time around, I decided to hire someone.

The service I called was unavailable to meet me on a specific day to provide an estimate. Time was short, so I decided to clean it myself (with some help from Mom).

I spent the recent three day weekend at the condo. I got plenty of exercise – taking the stairs, getting on my hands and knees, building up a sweat.

My condo is a small one bedroom unit. I’m glad I saved money and cleaned it myself.

As an aside, a presidential candidate mentioned about a month ago about having minority children clean their schools to teach them the importance of working to earn an income and to build character. While I agree that learning that one must work to earn an income is important, such a lesson should not be limitedto “poor” children or minority children. Middle income, upper level and children of the 1% can learn too.

One final thought: cleaning is a form of exercise. One will not have a protruding belly like that presidential candidate if one eats less and exercises more. If children are taught these values, a healthy citizenry reduces health care costs both individually and at the group level. 🙂

Why Dry Clean Only Clothes Are Like Owning A House

You visit a department store or a speciality clothing store and you find a dress or suit that you’ve got to have. Maybe you can impress by wearing the power suit at work or that dress to an upcoming social event. You look at the price tag of the suit or dress. That’s your only concern at that moment. You decide to purchase the item.

You wear it. You receive compliments. Once you get home you realize, this suit or dress needs to be cleaned. For the first time you look at the label to find out how to clean it. You see the following three words: dry clean only.

You probably don’t think much of the cost the first, second or third time you take that suit or dress to the dry cleaners. But by the fifth, sixth or seventh time, you could have purchased a new suit or dress. Yes, the cost of cleaning.

Well, there is an analogy to owning a home: the cost of maintenance and/or repair. We as perspective home owners “fall in love” with a home. We figure out we can make the monthly mortgage payment plus utilities. But what if the water heater ceases to work, or you need to purchase a new window, or even worse your home develops significant plumbing issues? Do you have the money to cover these expenses?

As I make every effort to live within my means, I have to find ways to save money. Besides eating the proverbial “beans & rice”, I own a lot of dry clean only winter clothes. I elected not to bother to wear those clothes this winter.

And, in the future, I will look for clothes that are NOT dry clean only to purchase.

As simple as S.A.S.E.

As a small business owner (rental property), it is important to be organized and to demonstrate to your tenant your organizational skills.  An effective tool I have employed is providing my tenants a S.A.S.E. – self-addressed stamped envelope.

The tenant who rents my parking space LOVES the fact that I send her both a receipt acknowledging payment of rent and also a S.A.S.E. for the following month’s rent.  She told me she rents another parking space from a different owner.  This owner never acknowledges receipt of the rent.  The tenant never knows whether he has received the check until it is cashed.  She really appreciates my monthly receipt because I am communicating with her (and, in essence, thanking her for paying the rent).  This tenant is an ideal tenant from my perspective because she pays the rent usually a week to 10 days in advance.

The tenants who moved out of the condo earlier this month also commented favorably about my practice of sending a receipt and a S.A.S.E. each month.

IMHO it is to the benefit of the landlord to send a receipt and a S.A.S.E.  First, you want to acknowledge that the rent has been received.  Second, you are sending a friendly reminder about the next month’s rent.  Third, you simplify the process for your tenant by supplying him/her with a S.A.S.E.  And fourth, this is a deductible business expense.

Simple indeed.



What would I do if there was no Craig’s List?

Spending lots of money advertising my condo for rent!

I have been renting my condo & parking space (yes, the District of Columbia taxes the parking space as a separate and distinct property) since May of 2005. I have paid for advertisement in the Washington City Paper, in a region specific publication, on a region specific website and on Military Not one tenant. In fact, only two inquiries through these paid services.

Nothing compares to Craig’s List. I posted my ad on Sunday, January 8th about 8:00 am in the morning. A few hours later I received an e-mail and I showed the unit to this prospective tenant at 2:00 pm (who ultimately became my 5th tenant). While driving from my house to the condo to meet this prospective tenant, I got a phone call from someone else interested in viewing the condo. Over the next three days I received another 10 inquiries.

Every tenant I have rented to, I found through Craig’s List (technically, my last tenant came to my attention via Urban igloo. But I had met this tenant the previous year. He was going to rent my condo, but the contractor doing renovations fell behind schedule and this tenant needed to find a place sooner).

Back in 2008 I became a little leery of Craig’s List because of some scams by certain individuals (from overseas) responding to ads.

But Craig’s List appears to be much more proactive in excluding scammers. Based on past experience, I knew I had to verify (by clicking on link sent to my e-mail address before my ad would be posted. Now there is another level of verification: Craig’s List sends you a code which you must relay by voice or text message. Several steps to get an ad up on the website but the precautions are prudent.

As a small business owner, nothing beats the service provided by Craig’s List!

In Twelve Days

My former tenants moved out on January 5th. My new tenant moved in today, January 17th. I am very fortunate to find a new tenant so quickly (had a lot of inquiries ). But I had a short window to get everything accomplished: hire contractor to paint walls & related tasks, hire someone to shampoo the carpet, purchase a new fire extinguisher, buy cleaning supplies (a task I performed myself with help fro my Mom), pay the $400 move in fee charged by the Condo Association, and have Sears technicians check appliances in the kitchen. In total I spent about $2,000 to get condo ready for new tenant, not including gasoline for multiple trips from my home to the condo and back. $2,000 is well above the monthly rent.

Then there is the time spent ensuring all paperwork is in order. Besides the Condo Association’s standard lease agreement, I have written documents that supplement the lease agreement: policies & rules, tenant information letter and smoke detector agreement. I even prepare a “reference binder” for the new tenant identifying the manager & assistant manager, the security guards and the shifts they work as well as the immediate neighbors. I work hard to provide a tenant with as much information as possible to ensure a smooth transition.

A lot to do in twelve days and it was done. Organization is key!

Extreme Budgeting

2011 was a great year in many ways, exceptwith how I handled my money. A too few many purchases. Draining my furlough fund – 1st because of medical expenses (hurt foot while training for Army 10 miler) and later it became the “go to fund” to cover purchases not in my budget. Additionally I budgeted too tightly in 2011.

To get back on track, I begin with budgeting. So, why is it extreme? I budgeted allpay periods for the year. Extreme indeed!

I get paid every 2 weeks. My expenses are basically the same each month. For the yearly or twice a year expenses such as auto insurance and subscriptions, I pay from the two extra pay periods (when paid three times a month -this year March & August). Of course it is not easy remembering everything. But I give it my best shot.

I used this extreme budgeting in 2009 & 2010. I paid off my condo home equity loan & my condo mortgage.

A New Year

Happy New Year. Did you make those financial resolutions for 2012? I did.

I plan also to reflect on 2011. But right now, fighting a sinus infection. Hence, why I’m so drained.

Just a brief personal finance commentary. If you are smart, purchase forever stamps BEFORE the cost of a 1st class stamp increases from $.44 to $.45, I believe effective January 22nd.

As a standard practice, I enclose a SASE when I mail a receipt acknowledging payment of rent to my tenants. Yesterday, I found one cent stamps but could not find any $.44 stamps. I had to stop by the condo yesterday so my solution: I included $.45 in the envelope for one tenant acknowledging receipt of January’s rent.

Yes, will take my own advice and purchase forever stamps this weekend.