Apartment Hunting and February Review

February went REALLY well, I thought. I had a food expense budget of $280 and managed to spend $308. Yes, I’m $28 above budget BUT I have NEVER been so close to keeping my food budget before. I did an EXCELLENT job of keeping my $10/day budget.

I found though that one of the main problems that I had was grocery shopping. I felt like I couldn’t go and buy a lot of food because it would make me “go negative”. So I’ve decided that I’m giving myself $20/week “free” month to spend at the grocery store. To compensate for this I’m going to decrease the money I get per day to $9/day. This way I can spend $20 (or so) at the grocery store and not worry about “how much money I have for the day”. If I don’t use that $20 by Friday, the money is GONE – it DOES NOT carry over. This way I have a similar budget but hopefully can encourage grocery store purchases.

Here are my February Goals for my budget and the results:

DINING
Goal: $280
Spent: $308
Net: OVER $28

PETS
Goal: $240
Spent: $493
Net: OVER $253

AUTO
Goal: $120
Spent: $47
Net: UNDER $73

MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES
Goal: $100
Spent: $112
Net: OVER $12

As you can see, I did a VERY poor job of keeping my pet budget in check. The major reason for this is that I had to take Jack to the vet twice this month, also I had to board him at the beginning of the month because of a conference I went to. If I subtract these expenses I only spent $140 on my pets this month — which is WELL within the budget. However, I do need to have enough flexibility in my budget to be able to pay for Jack getting sick, me getting sick, ect — which thankfully I did!

This month my goals are as follows:

DINING
Goal: $360

MY PETS
Goal: $230

AUTO
Goal: $80

MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES
Goal: $100

The dining amount is really broken into 2 categories: $80 at the grocery store and $280 for my daily food — obviously these can be combined. We’ll see how this works out!

I think that “My Pets” goal is totally reasonable and is still an area of my budget where I could definitely save some money if I REALLY had to. I don’t think that is necessary just yet. This includes three days a week of daycare for Jack, food for Jack and the cats, and litter for the cats. I got some cat liter on sale at Target this weekend that should last me a good 2-3 months. It also came with a $5 gift card which I used to buy some toys for the dog. He loves new and stimulating dog toys, but I can’t afford to buy him a new one every few weeks, so buying one with the gift card was a great solution.

My auto expense is assuming I fill up $20/week every week this month (which as compared to last month is an over assumption). I also may need to change my oil come the end of this month, so it is good to have a little cushion in the budget for it.

Even though I went over budget in most of my categories I felt like February was a success. Yes, it was a shorter month and March will be longer, but I got through February nearly $600 short because of the conference I went to and still managed to not go overdraft. That is QUITE an accomplishment for me.

Now, about my apartment.

I HATE MY APARTMENT.

I can’t say that strongly enough. My lease is up in December of 2009 and it can’t come soon enough. However, where I live about 80% of leases are August to August. So if I want to be able to find a decent apartment to move into I need to be looking for moving in during the summer and either subletting for 4 months to someone who needs a short term lease option or getting out of my lease early. I posted an ad on Craigslist for a sublet and haven’t gotten many bites — this would be different if I posted in 3 months — but unfortunately I need to know my situation before then. So I emailed my leasing company and asked them if I could get out of my lease early. They said that they would check on it for me and get back to me on Wednesday. I’m taking it as a positive sign that they’re even checking instead of turning me down flat.

So that leaves me with the second question of: where do I move to?

I have very few qualifications, but unfortunately don’t leave me a lot of options:
* Must allow dogs (not tiny rat dogs, but REAL dogs)
* Must be at least 650 sq ft (I’m in 700 now and don’t want THAT much of a downgrade)
* Must not be ridiculously run down (that is the main reason I hate this apartment so much)

Well, this leaves me with a conundrum. If it is big and allows dogs it is either expensive or run down. If it is nice and allows dogs it is either small or expensive. So my options are few.

One place I really like is called AV. It is around 650 sq ft for a 1 bedroom and they allow dogs and cats. Their rent is $610 (I’m paying $695 with pet rent now) plus $30 for pet rent. So I would be paying $640 total (less than what I’m paying now). It just FEELS cramped in these apartments though.

One idea that I’m seriously toying with is getting the 1 bedroom with the garage. This doubles the apartment space. The garage is underneath the normal size apartment and includes a bonus room that is half of the apartment foot print. The washer and drier and a small closet are also down in the bonus room. My idea is that I will keep the bonus room and garage area for my cats and the upstairs will be cat-free. The main reason for this is that Cpt. Baseball is SEVERELY allergic to cats. We live an hour away and he has visited me only 4 times in the period of the 10 months we’ve been dating because he can’t stay in my apartment. This way he would be able to spend weekends with me 50% of the time rather than — well — none of the time. Yes, this has the possibility of putting strain on the relationship but I think it would be good for him and for us for him to see me in MY LIFE rather than in his. Also, it would let other people come to my apartment since apparently half of the Midwest is allergic to cats. It would be nice to be able to HOST a party every once in a while.

The downside? Well, as you can probably guess, doubling the foot print of the apartment increases the rent. It raises the rent for $610 to $760 — plus the $30 pet rent — so I’d be looking at $790/month. That is $100 MORE than what I’m paying now.

Theoretically, I can afford this. I would not have to pay for water, which is $30/month for me. And theoretically it would cut my gas costs in half because I wouldn’t be driving as much. So that would be around $30-60/month. That would mean the apartment would be then around $40-70 more expensive that what I’m paying now. And the question then is: Is this apartment WORTH that much more to me? If it means that Cpt. Baseball comes and hangs out with me more and that I feel like I’m living somewhere nice rather than a crap hole — then I’d say yes.

However, I’m not sure that the Cpt. Baseball thing will *really* happen since he’s looking at buying a house around the same time and I can completely see him making “house” related excuses every week. I foresee fights about this. And I see eventually a break-up because of it because I will want him to spend at least 1, if not more weekends a month with me and him not wanting to do so (which is bullshit since it is what I’ve been doing for 10 months and will continue doing for months longer).

Then I have to ask the other question: Can I afford to pay more? Right now, my budget is pretty tight as it is. Technically I CAN afford to pay $100 more a month. I supposedly have around $400 extra a month — but I don’t know WHERE it goes. Actually, I do, it serves as the buffer that allows me to pay for Jack’s vet bills and to pay out of pocket for the conference that I wanted to go to. That’s where it went.

The other solution that I have is a “work for your house” plan wher
e I HAVE to come up with $100 extra every month to pay for that rent. Be it online tutoring, payperposts or doing WHATEVER it takes. The problem with this plan is, of course, implementation. I can SAY that I’ll do that — but what proof do I have that I will actually follow through? Well, I suppose when I’m strapped for cash and trying to pay for shit — that would be a pretty good sign I need to start digging in again.

Well, this is all postulation because I still need to make sure that they’ll even let me out of my lease. Then we’ll crunch the hard numbers and see what needs to be done.

~~~

As for my emergency fund, I shifted all of my left-over February funds into it ($62) so I’m sitting pretty with my emergency fund. It is growing steadily and I’m thrilled about that. Hopefully I won’t have to use it till it gets big and strong, but it is GREAT to know it is there if I do!

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