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Did I Tell You I Actually Got Elected Onto Our HOA?

Yep!  After 5 years of living here, one failed attempt to be on the home owner’s association (HOA) board a few years ago, and some networking via life, I was elected onto our HOA board last October during the annual meeting that I didn’t even attend because I was at Fincon17!!! One of my friends who lives in this neighborhood to, Jennifer Fernandez, spoke for both of us while I was gone.  We were hoping to get elected together.  Instead, I get a text message congratulating me, and then she tells me she wasn’t elected! Meh…someone on the board moved a couple of weeks later, so we grabbed her up ASAP anyway.  😀  If you are from this neighborhood and haven’t voted yet, please elect Jennifer Fernandez for one of the two open spots because she loves this neighborhood, will work for you, and I don’t want to be the only woman on the HOA board!!!  She’s the one who planned and executed the Easter Egg Hunt with hardly any help!  I just helped coordinate a few little things…she did 99.9% of the whole, giant hunt!!! I Made Connections Yep, I apparently made enough good impressions via human connections that … Read more

DIY – Replacing an Outside Unit Air Conditioner Capacitor

*DISCLOSURE:  THIS IS A PERSONAL STORY, NOT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE* This is just a heads up post in case anybody else experiences this specific issue with their air conditioner. When our a/c stops working because the outside unit isn’t turning on (fan blowing inside but the outside unit is off), it most likely is the capacitor. How to Replace a Capacitor for the Outside A/C Unit It looks like a metal cylinder smaller than a soda can. Here are the steps we took to replace it ourselves: TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY TO THE A/C Remove the bolts of the little panel in the back or on the side of your outside unit Take a picture of how it is hooked up currently so you know how to put the new capacitor back in SHORT IT OUT BY USING TWO INSULATED SCREW DRIVERS TO BLEED OUT THE ELECTRICITY BY TOUCHING TWO TERMINALS AT ONCE (just don’t go around molesting the terminals and it seems to work out okay) and unplug the 3 wires leading into it Either order a new one online or take it to a place like Grainger Industrial or any air conditioner repair shop to get a replacement.  Call … Read more

Compensated for Our Inconvenience!!!

Hi!  I will update all of you baby lovers about Baby BFS super soon (she’s just past 7 weeks old, wowza), but I had to pass along a money thing ASAP. Long story summarized, our sweet next door neighbors are having a pool installed.  We gave their pool company permission to shortcut through our back yard to dig the initial hole.  Crap happened. The First Screw Up On Day 1, the digging crew shredded our fiber optic internet/cable line with the sheer weight of the Bobcat hole-digger.  AT&T was way behind on appointments and couldn’t make it out to run a new line for us FOR 6 DAYS. The Second Screw Up Then, after those 6 days and only 4 hours after AT&T ran a new line for us, the pool company’s fencing crew re-installed the fence section and DROVE A NAIL THROUGH THE NEW LINE.  It was another 2 days before AT&T could make it out again. NO INTERNET That’s 8 days without the internet.  Our very apologetic (and truly thoughtful since I would not have come up with this idea) neighbors bought a WIFI extender so we could use their internet in the northwest corner of our house.  … Read more

Property Tax Appraisals Matter

For the last few years, I’ve been getting more involved in my local community mainly through Nextdoor.com and our neighborhood’s Facebook group.  I wanted to feel more connected to the people who exist around me.  What does this really mean?  I spend WAY too much time on social media.  AND, I get to see questions that I no longer see in personal finance blogs.  It can get a little stale preaching to the choir. Getting Blind-Sided by Property Taxes For example, one of my neighbors from Nextdoor.com got walloped by her bank for a couple of extra thousand dollars because her home’s appraised value zoomed up, she escrows, and the bank didn’t take enough every month last year to cover the property tax increase.  She knew in passing that the appraised value increased but didn’t know to protest it.  She also didn’t know what that would do to her property taxes.  So now she feels blind-sided. Crystal’s Take on Official Home Appraisals and Property Taxes Here was how I replied: It looks like a few people have already summarized the process. We receive our annual property tax appraisals from in the first 3rd of the year. They can increase the … Read more

We Don’t Escrow, So This Month Hurts to the Tune of $12,250!

December can be slightly depressing if you are one of those people, like us, who don’t escrow their property taxes.  That means that our monthly mortgage total is always identical but we have to pay our own property tax bills each year.  Escrowing means having the mortgage lender estimate the annual taxes, include that in the monthly payments due, and then change the monthly payment the following year based on whether they over or under estimated previously.  I don’t like inconsistency, so we chose to NOT escrow.  But I pay for that aspect of control by having to watch GOBS and GOBS of money disappear every December.  Granted, we set aside the money throughout the year for exactly this purpose.  It’s not a shocking surprise.  But it still hurt to transfer out $12,250 this year just to pay our home’s HOA dues ($719) and property taxes on two houses in an expensive (aka, nice) school district.  Yep, our net worth just took a $12,250 smack to the face.  I always feel broke right around the day I hand over that hefty, annual chunk of change.  Property Taxes Keep Rising And that payment number is growing thanks to home values ($148k … Read more

Let’s Whine About Insurance Costs!

It’s that time of year for us again – most of our insurance policies are up for renewal.  I cringe every time I pay one of the bills, and yet I know that we’re actually getting fair renewal rates. How do I know?  I shop around every couple of years or when there is a significant jump in cost.  AND I talk a lot about everything to everybody, so I usually have a good idea of what is being paid by others. So chime in below so we can all keep up on the going rates in our own regions.  I’m starting with our most costly out-of-pocket coverage and working my way down.  Knowledge is power…knowledge of costs is the power to save money! Health Care Coverage We don’t technically have health insurance.  We joined Liberty Healthshare in 2016, which is a health cost sharing group.  It’s not actually insurance, but they work similarly.  They don’t guarantee coverage, have a maximum coverage amount of $1,000,000 per incident, and they don’t cover pre-existing conditions fully for the first few years. But they let us join, cost WAY less than our previous health insurance ($299 a month instead of $570+), and have … Read more

Owning Vs. Renting – Not Just About the Numbers

Any of y’all on Nextdoor.com?  It’s a community forum just for your neighborhood and the ones around it.  I do Nextdoor like most people do Facebook.  Anyway, someone there brought up the rising monthly rental costs this past week, and I started to feel that tingle all personal finance geeks get when money starts getting discussed publicly. “THERE BE MY PEOPLE!!!” I ran some numbers to help put things in some sort of perspective.  Here’s what I got for the average 3 bed, 2 bath homes around us (outskirts of Houston, Texas) that sell for $150,000-$180,000… A $150,000 Mortgage Example A $150k mortgage at 4% for 30 years is about $715 a month.  Then you have an approximate 3% rate for property taxes on $150k ($135k if you have the homestead exemption, but that goes away as a landlord), so that’s $4500 a year or about $375 a month. Then there’s the $1200-$2400 a year home owner’s insurance policy, the $600 flood policy for non-homesteaded homes, HOA dues that range from $0-$3000 a year, and then the maintenance and repair costs for everything. That boils down to:  $1300 a month + HOA dues + Upkeep and Repairs Owning Vs Renting All in all, if you are renting a … Read more