Friday, August 1, 2008

Magic Mailboxes, and We're Really Rolling In It ...

I don't know why, but in my family it seems that the first year of marriage is good for the new couple.

My parents talk about how during their first year of marriage, they had what they called "The Magic Mailbox." It turns out that when you get married, and you move to a place considered "safer" (read: less crime), then insurance companies send you a bunch of refunds. Mom says it seemed like every month they were getting money back from something.

splorp! and I have been married almost 2 years, and we find this "Magic Mailbox" thing to be true as well. Car insurance and renter's insurance both decreased, and they sent us a refund check. splorp! got money from a class action suit at his old corporate job (hint, major mortgage company recently bought by BofA) for unpaid overtime. Yesterday, I, too got money from a class action suit at my old job (hint: major rental car company, named after an aircraft carrier), for unpaid lunches.

Not to say that either splorp! or I ever was unpaid by those companies. We were both aware of what we should/should not be paid for, and we checked our paychecks for accuracy (I actually informed HR when I was not taxed on a bonus, and had the money declared properly). But we qualified for settlements because we were employed by those companies during the time period specified by the suit. And we both thought we were underpaid during our time at our respective jobs, so no, we're not going to return the money.

Magic Mailbox aside, splorp! and I try to live by some of the principles advocated by financial help books, like the Smart Women Finish Rich books I have mentioned previously. We don't necessarily try to increase our income - that would involve working a second job, and we enjoy actually seeing each other. It's more that we try to reduce our expenses and not incur new debt.

We have had luck this past year by shopping around for our renter's and car insurance. In spite of the discount we received last year as a result of being married, this year our insurance costs increased. By shopping around, we saved approximately $100 from what we paid last year, instead of our costs increasing by $200. Does that mean we saved $300 overall? I'll let you decide.

We also moved apartments last year. Our old apartment was nice - tall ceilings, included the major appliances, washer and dryer included in the unit, and it had AC and heating. However, the management office was mostly terrible, and included very rude people who had no concept of "open hours." We had minimal maintenance requests during our 2 1/2 years there, but it often took two attempts for the repair to be done correctly, and they insisted that one of our major repair requests could not be done at all, though the actual maintenance supervisor commented (on the day we moved out! while doing our final walk through!) that, "Oh, that's an easy fix. All you do is ... " Uh huh, why didn't that happen two years ago? Seems the management office doesn't ask the maintenance supervisor's opinion before declaring repairs unrealistic. Stupid people.

Anyway, moving apartments was a big deal. We're now closer to grocery stores, and more centrally located in town, gained a bit more square footage, gained a parking space and small garden area, but we lost some comforts. Like, we had to acquire our own refrigerator, we have no AC, our washer and dryer are gone (now we pay quarters for the laundry room), it is a much older building so some of the "decor" is dated and very dark, and one of our "full" bathrooms actually only contains a tub (really - the tile surround stops a foot above the tub ledge and there's no shower head, so no shower). Also, our major annoyance is that our master bathroom is partly in our bedroom. The shower and toilet are in a small room, but the sink, lights, and outlet (and hairdryer!) are in the main part of the bedroom. No, there is not a wall (nor a door) dividing the two rooms.

So, while the Magic Mailbox is a nice concept, and we put those insurance company refunds and other "found" monies right into our slowly growing housing fund, the largest impact on our checkbook balances has come from the downgrade in living arrangements.

How big an impact? Our old 2 bed 2 bath apartment (tall ceilings) started out at $1496 for 17 months, then went up to $1550 for 12 months, and then wanted to charge over $1680 for another 12 months, or over $1800 if we went month-to-month. That's when we said "bye-bye" and downgraded to our new (dated decor) apartment, and pay $1430 for a 2 bed, 2 bath, with the various inconveniences I mentioned.

Those amounts sound astronomical, don't they? It's a mortgage payment in most places. Yeah, we think so too. But our current rate is actually LOW for our area (gotta love Southern California - beautiful weather, can't afford to live there).

The sacrifices in comfort will be worth it in the long run, right? When I own my own home I'll be able to look back on these funky apartments and miserable apartment managers with good humor, won't I? ... Won't I?

Well, for now, we'll laugh all the way to the bank.

PS. This is not meant to imply that I suffer more than EGE did, living without drywall in her kitchen. No, she wins that round!


EGE said...

Ha! Ialmost didn't see youre little ntoe abotu me at the bottom, because I was lunging for the comment button to say:

DON'T BUY A HOUSE!!! Oh my god, I long for the days of getting to bitch about the management when repairs do not get made, or get made wrong. When it's not your job to make them, or pay someone to make them. Oh yes, my friend, when you buy a house you will look back on your apartment days fondly. I promise you that!

EGE said...

Oh my lord, the typos! Can you tell how emotional I am about this?