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Apartment Hunting For Nerds

April 5th, 2011 No comments

The very first budget I ever kept was at the age of 17, and it was developed not as a method to save money, but rather as an excuse to learn Excel. (It should be noted that I didn’t need to learn Excel for school; I just thought it looked like fun.)  Ever since, I’ve enjoyed the many practical – and occasionally extremely impractical – applications I’ve found for spreadsheets in my daily life.

Today, I’ve begun attempting to educate myself about the housing rental market in Portland.  With the move coming fast (less than three months?!), I figure it can never be too early to start looking around at what’s available, at least in general terms.  That is, I don’t assume any decent apartments currently on craigslist will still be available when we go looking in mid-June.

So, out of a sense of restlessness and stressed out impatience, I’ve decided to start looking for trends in rental rates (NERD!).  That is, I’ve set up a spreadsheet (NERD!) of apartments currently available in neighborhoods that [I’ve been told should] appeal to me, and I’m looking for average prices.  Since rent will be a big factor in where we decide to live, I want to collect a few weeks’ data (NERD!) to determine a general idea of which neighborhoods are expensive-but-awesome and which are cheap-but-horrible, and to find a nice balance between the two.

In all my raving about how much I love our current apartment, I neglected to mention that we live in an incredibly pleasant and culture-rich neighborhood.  It’s quiet and a bit family-oriented, which I don’t particularly mind since I’m not a big bar-hopping kind of guy anyway (umm…nerd?), and it doesn’t have much of a city feel…more like a bustling small town.  But we’re also nestled among an entire massive city with all the bar-hopping and noise-making opportunities we could ever hope for in nearby areas.

What I want is: a) to find a couple comparable neighborhoods in Portland; b) to know how much an average 2-bedroom apartment in such neighborhoods might cost; and c) to find a slightly-below-average-priced apartment in one of these neighborhoods, set up an appointment to see it when we visit in June, and keep my fingers crossed that the next year of my life will be as pleasant as the last one has been.

Now, I know I don’t have too many readers here, but if any of the couple dozen of you happen to know anything about Portland, Oregon, I’d love some input regarding my neighborhood search.  If, however, any of you care to offer advice on apartment searching tactics in general, I’d kindly request that you just keep it to yourself, because I’m already sunk too deep into the nerdiness of my hunt to acknowledge any simpler or more logical methods.

Categories: Home Life Tags:

ING Sub-Accounts

April 4th, 2011 No comments

Have I ever told you about my savings accounts?

(God, isn’t that just the worst way to start a blog entry?  How many people do you think immediately clicked away after the first sentence?)

There are a lot of people who are extremely diligent about trying to find the best possible interest rate for their savings.  Websites like MoneyRates and BankRate will execute searches to find the highest offered savings interest on any given day (well, except maybe Sundays, since God allegedly doesn’t approve of interest payments).  The best rates are, without exception as far as I can tell, always from online banking institutions rather than brick-and-mortar banks, because without having to pay maintenance fees on, you know, bricks and mortar, online banks are able to pass their reduced overhead on to their customers.  So, that’s one route for housing some savings.

Another (less wise) method would be finding a convenient bank with which to keep your savings.  This, in my case, is the basis for my decision to keep my checking account with the much-detested Chase, which has a branch only three blocks from my house, not to mention the fact that they have, I believe, over 14 trillion ATMs in the city of Chicago alone.  But, even with my checking account conveniently housed in the vast vaults of J.P. Morgan’s ghost (who is still the acting CEO in spite of his somewhat ethereal behavior), I’m not dumb enough to overlook the fact that Chase only pays 0.01% annual interest on a savings account.

I found a happy medium, opting not for the best interest, nor for the most convenient bank I could find.  Instead, I went for the one with the coolest online features.  (This is typical of me; I like innovation, creativity, bells, and sometimes whistles.)  The winner:  ING Direct, home of the ingenious sub-account.

Now, to summarize:  I only have one savings account with ING, but it’s partitioned into six different, separately titled sub-accounts, each of which can be directed using their “automated savings program” to conduct transactions among themselves or with non-ING accounts.  So, when my paycheck arrives in my checking account every other week, I’m technically just transferring a chunk of it to my ING account…but what I’m really doing is transferring a mini-chunk to my emergency savings, a mini-chunk to my vacation savings, a mini-chunk to my “big ticket” fund (which will be spent in its entirety on our upcoming move…so long, big screen TV dreams), and so on.

ING also has a vast array of features intended to create a sort of culture (cult?) of savers…a blog about saving, a section for personal testimonials, tips for frugality.  It’s sort of a cool little corner of the banking world.  What’s more, ING as a company discourages people from keeping too much money with them.  That is, if someone is housing hundreds of thousands of dollars with them, they are apparently polite enough to suggest that that person pursue one of the plethora of possible ways to make more than [today’s current rate of] 1.00% interest for everything besides their rainy-day funds and other smaller accounts.

Now, I have no beef with people who want to seek out higher interest rates.  But, with rates changing every day and banks constantly competing with one another, it seems more important to me to find a trustworthy, comfortable, and well-designed place for your money.  ING’s sub-accounts are all I need to make me a loyal and long-term customer.  And also sort of a fanboy.  And also, apparently a shill.  Oh well.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Happy New Month! (April 2011)

April 1st, 2011 No comments

It’s been some time since I successfully repeated my one monthly feature…and since I’ve been wanting to start other monthly features, it’s probably pretty important that I get my 1st-of-the-month-goal-check out of the way.

Now, due to the fact that I haven’t HappyNewMonthed (that’s a verb, right?) in quite some time, I never explicitly stated any goals for the month of March, but I did indeed have a few floating around in my head:

March

  1. Not fully understanding how the ranking system worked or what to expect from it, I set myself a goal for No-Kill Finance to rank above (or would it be below?) #10,000,000 on Alexa by March 31st.  Clearly, I was in the dark in setting this goal, because in spite of some generally unimpressive visitor numbers, I’m currently at #1,965,559.  Apparently that’s nothing to be proud of…but good for me, anyway!
  2. In terms of those visitor numbers, I didn’t have very high hopes and didn’t know where to set my sights, so for the first month, rather than setting a numerical goal for pageviews, I just aimed to post 4 entries per week…not a difficult goal for a guy who only works one job and has a fair amount of typically-wasted free time.  I succeeded at this goal, but only technically…I posted 17 entries in March, but only one in this most recent week.  Shame on me!
  3. I wanted to try to keep my grocery spending below $200 (spent $220.70…FAIL!).  My problem with these goals is that I don’t operate on an envelope budget, or really anything similar.  I just tally them up at the end of the month to see how I did.  Not effective, in terms of budgetary planning.  I should work on that.
  4. Other budgetary goals:  under $30 on alcohol (I spent a whopping $48), under $40 on “entertainment” (a wide-reaching category of my budget that includes newspapers, magazines, books, concerts, board games, and various costs associated with hosting parties/gatherings…I spent over $100…epic fail), under $30 on dining out (I spent $71), and under $20 on transportation (I spent $16…hey,a success!!!).
  5. I hoped to pay off 100% of my credit card, which as of March 8 stood at $281.37.  Well, that was a stupid goal to set for myself, since I had an LSAT prep class that I knew I was going to charge.  So, now that my credit card bill has almost passed the $1000 mark, I’d doubt I’d be able to pay it off before summer if not for the previously discussed estate money coming my way.
  6. I wanted to get rid of some of the crap that litters my apartment.  The specific goal I set for myself on March 9th was that I wanted to get rid of an average of 1 item a day.  Well, from that day, I purchased three new items but “got rid of” (or set aside, at least…with the intent of selling) a whopping 84 old ones, averaging out at over four per day!

So, a somewhat disappointing showing in numbers for the month.  Perhaps a mid-month check-up (a “Happy Ides” post?) would help me keep these goals in sight?

Now, to set up some content for discussion in next month’s (fingers crossed) monthly feature:

April

  1. Given that No-Kill Finance had 373 visits in the month of March (a small number, but not bad compared to a whopping 36 in February), I’m going to try to reach 500 in April.  So long as I can keep spending time on maintaining at least decent writing quality (I won’t claim to have mastered the art of blogging just yet) while I’m taking my two-month LSAT prep class, this shouldn’t be too lofty a goal.
  2. Oh yeah, I’m taking an LSAT prep class starting next week.  While I previously thought they were a horrid waste of money, I now see the value in overcoming test anxiety and maybe boosting my critical thinking skills a touch, as well.  As a very rudimentary goal, I’m going to not miss any of those very pricey classes.  (The only partial exception to this will be the final hour or so of April 21st’s class, which is most unfortunately the same night as a concert by one of my favorite bands of all time, to which I purchased a ticket a couple of months ago.)  As a more long-term goal (the test is in June), I’m aiming to increase my score by 8 points from last fall’s rather disappointing result.  Note that 8 is my minimum expectation for myself…I wouldn’t mind increasing it by 15 or 20, either.
  3. I want to find a reliable method of stress relief by the end of April, leaving myself all of May to learn to relax in the face of June’s LSAT, July’s move, and all of August’s associated stresses of relocation.  If anyone has any suggestions for calming myself down (last time I meditated and failed miserably at not freaking myself out on the morning of the test), I’d love to hear them.
  4. I need to plan a pre-move trip to the coast to look for work and housing.  I’m extremely concerned about the former, and mostly confident about the latter given the wide variety of badass awesome neighborhoods that Portland has to offer.  Both a job and an apartment in one trip, though, justifies at least a 4-day stay, which will probably require some bargain shopping.  (I have almost $550 saved for vacations – a funny word to use for such a stressful trip – and will have $650 by the end of April…hopefully that will be enough.)
  5. While I should up my writing goal to “1 entry per weekday,” I’m concerned I might not be able to sustain that rate with 8 hours of class each week, so I’ll stick to aiming for 4 per week.
  6. #1,500,000 or better on Alexa?  Note the question mark, as I’m still not totally sure what to expect from sustained effort.  Hopefully, by the end of April, I’ll have hugely underestimated this goal again.  (Last month I went from #11,633,004 to #1,965,559…if I see another drop like that, I should be outranking Google and Facebook by the end of April, right?  Oh, that’s not how it works?)
  7. I want to accomplish a hefty number of moving-related goals, perhaps too large a number to list here.  Highlights, though:  schedule a yard sale, continue to get rid of at least 1 item a day, and find a motel around Salt Lake City that will let us stay there with three cats.

Tune in May 1st to see how I fare.  Or don’t.  I don’t much care…this entry is much more directed at myself than at you.  In fact, why have you even bothered to read this far?  You’re weird.

Categories: Accountability, Goals, School Tags: