Reader Mailbag: Getting Things Done

Over the years, I’ve received literally hundreds of requests for a detailed review and discussion of the well-known productivity and time management book Getting Things Done by David Allen, which was a truly life-changing book for me. Without the techniques in the book, I would have never found the time management skills or the information management skills to make The Simple Dollar work.

So, in a few weeks, I’m doing just that. I’m going to be running a twice-weekly series in June and July (and maybe into August) that discusses Getting Things Done in detail, along with a lot of specifics on how exactly I use the information in the book (think: pictures).

Time is money, after all, and perhaps the discussion will help you to figure out how exactly you can maximize the value of your time and perhaps find the space to start a big new adventure in your life.

I currently rent an apartment, my employer will be having me travel over the next year spending a few months in various locations. I’m trying to figure out if it’s in my best benefit to not renew my lease and live off of my travel expenses and save the money that I would have paid in rent. Of course I would have to pay for storage and moving my belongings to storage. My concern, which I need to talk to my supervisor about, is that I may come back to my office here for a week or so over the year and would need to stay in a hotel if I had no place, that would be at my own cost since this is my home office. Also I know moving into and out of storage would cost money. Looking for a new apartment when I return would also take time (i.e. money). Do you have any suggestions?
- Mike

You’ve got the right first step. Talk to your employer about temporary housing while you’re in town during this extremely travel-heavy year. I would think that would be a completely reasonable “perk.” I’d also ask for some short-term housing when you return from all of the traveling. After all, you’re agreeing to a year of traveling and life instability; I think these requests are pretty reasonable.

If you can get this, then I wouldn’t renew the lease. I’d probably try to get rid of as much of my stuff as I possibly could (ideally by selling it), stripping things down to the bare minimum to set up an apartment in a year or so, then put that stuff in the smallest storage space possible.

Just be absolutely sure this is what you want to do. Everyone is wired differently for this kind of thing. I can say from personal experience that this kind of year sounds incredibly difficult and unenjoyable to me.

I own a house (13 years now) w/ a mortgage in another state with a tenant that has a Lease, option to buy. This has been in place for 7 years now and working fine. The Lease has taken care of the payment, taxes, & insurance. In our agreement the Leasee is responsible for any & all repair & maintenance expenses. Recently the tenant has been coming up short of being able to make the payments (due to unemployment). We have talked and he recognizes that he is in danger of both of us loosing the house as I am in no position to make up his shortfall as I am also unemployed. The mortgage balance is ~85,000 and reasonable to the value of the place and for the neighborhood, however the market that is severely depressed where it is located. During the BOOM it was valued at over $250,000. If I go through proceedings to take the house back from the lease, and put it on the market to sell, it may still end up being a short sale, will be lucky if it covers the mortgage.

It’s a small house on acre of land in a reasonable neighborhood and just a couple blocks from a major highway for commuters. Have already talked to the bank extensively and they are not interested in any sort of negotiations or help, nor are there any “programs” available to help either the tenant or me. We have the funds in CD’s to pay off the mortgage. But it would take all of it. Have a 401(k) that I can take a loan from to buy / save a house.

I don’t know that I would ever want to return there and live on the property… I am torn as to whether to fight to keep the property or to let it go. If I do let it go, should I just turn it over to the bank (letting the tenant know of course) or evict the tenant ($$) and then try to sell the house and hope for enough to cover the mortgage? All the while, trying to keep the bank from foreclosing anyway?
- Cheryl

The first step I would take would be to get an estimate on what the house might sell for. During the boom, your house was worth $250,000, but what is it worth now? Do the research and find out.

I’d also find out if the tenant actually has an interest in buying, as he has an option to buy. It doesn’t sound like he is, but it’s hard to tell for sure unless you ask.

If you can sell the house, pay off your mortgage, and end the lease while breaking even or winding up money ahead, I’d go that route. In your current situation, you need to maximize your cash flow, and a tenant that is unemployed is not helping with that.

I could really use some advice. I am 28 years old and I graduated from law school 2 years ago. Due to the tremendous slow down in the legal sector, I’ve spent the majority of the time since I graduated looking for work. Fortunately, I live with my boyfriend so my monthly expenses are pretty low, and about a year ago, I found a job that now pays around $59K. Now, I am trying to decide a plan of attack for the $183,000 I owe in student loans. I have two private loans: on the first, I owe roughly $59K with an interest rate of 9.25% (minimum payment $460), and on the second, I owe $16K is at 4.25% ($53). The remaining student loan debt is around $108K is federal government loans that are consolidated at 7% ($530). I also have some credit card debt – around $3,500 at 8.9%, and while my loans were in a 3 month forbearance period, I stashed away an emergency fund of roughly $6K and less than $1K in a Roth IRA (I don’t qualify for my employer’s retirement program).

Lately, I’ve stopped saving to focus on paying off my credit card, and I plan to wipe that debt out by the end of the summer. After that, I intend to focus on paying down the $59K private loan. My question for you is whether I should resume saving in my emergency fund or retirement account or focus on paying down my student loans. When my federal loans come out of forbearance at the end of summer, I’ll only have about $400 left each month for debt repayment or savings. I am constantly searching for higher paying jobs, but hiring in the legal sector is still very slow and extremely competitive. I’d like to continue working at my current job until I find a higher paying job, but although my job is fairly secure, it supposed to be temporary. I serve at the pleasure of a judge for as long as she’ll have me but clerkships don’t usually last more than two years.

I know that accumulating all of this student loan debt was probably a pretty terrible idea but I’m stuck with it now. And as I have made some very stupid financial decisions in the past because I was too foolish to ask for advice, I’d really appreciate any suggestions or recommendations you may have. I know that you may have other readers in shoes similar to mine who may also benefit from your analysis.
- Kristen

First thing: forget about the past. It’s water under the bridge. You can’t undo what happened, so don’t spend your time worrying about it at all.

Instead, focus entirely on your financial situation now.

Do you have an emergency fund that can help you get through a job loss, a car repair, or any major problem like that? If you don’t have at least two months’ take-home worth of cash sitting there for easy access, focus on your savings first. Your $6,000 is a very good start towards this, of course.

Once you have that, I would start putting at least some towards the Roth IRA each month. The annual cap on the Roth is $5,000, so I would contribute your monthly savings into that as long as your emergency fund is up.

If you have that cornered, focus on your debts, starting with the highest interest rate debt. Because student loan interest rate is tax-deductible, I’d pay off the 8.9% credit card before paying off the 9.25% student loan. After that, I’d just move down the line, throwing as much at each debt as possible.

My question is centered around our home ownership situation. Two months before I met my husband in summer of 2007, he purchased the condo we now live in for $251,000. We live near Microsoft headquarters in Washington state. Because of higher interest rates at that time and his 10% down payment, our mortgage payment is about $1,900 per month including PMI, HOA dues and water/sewage/garbage. Moving right along, assessments were conducted on our condo complex, and it was determined in fall of 2008 that the complex required a 4 million dollar renovation (replacement of siding, roofing, windows, balconies), with our part of the price tag being $39,000. We, and many other homeowners simply did not have the cash to pay that amount upfront. The HOA was able to secure a loan, and we now pay $367/mo. toward our $39,000 portion. The payments are bundled with our HOA dues, and the interest rate for our renovation loan is 7.5% for five years. That has bumped our basic housing cost including mortgage, dues and renovation up to $2,300/month. This doesn’t include any of our other regular monthly costs such as food, fuel, electric, etc.

Meanwhile, our condo has severely depreciated. Fortunately, my husband is still gainfully employed and I have kept a part-time job that I’ve had since graduate school. Our combined income is at about $85,000 annually. We have 6 months of emergency savings, plus approximately $25,000 in savings on top of that. I have $40,000 in student debt and am making my payments. We do not hold any credit card debt or other debt.

Trent, it’s gut-wrenching to know that we’re paying such a high price on a home whose value is so much less than the inflated price my husband paid. We do well with savings, but it’s all going to go toward paying our renovation cost (because it’s got the highest interest rate and we’d like to pay it off before the interest rate goes up in 2014) rather than saving for a down payment on a house. We don’t want to walk away from what we owe, but given the circumstances, it may be about six years before we could afford a down payment on another home, and I am afraid that the value on our condo may not recuperate in that time. The depreciation in our condo of $50,000 plus our renovation cost of $39,000 puts us way underwater. (An important aside: the condo complex across the street had a structural renovation from apartments to condos 2.5 years ago, and the job was shoddy, and the contractor for the original project fled to Mexico,so now they need a $4 million renovation, too…those owners are staging a mass foreclosure, and I imagine the failure of those condos will further depreciate our condo’s value since it’s now on the local news.).
- Maria

You’re in a mess.

You’re right in that the value of your condo probably won’t recuperate in six years. It will likely recover some value over that period – after all, you do have a condo near the Microsoft HQ – but it’s hard to tell how much.

However, it’s hard to tell whether or not walking away from this will actually save you any money in the long run. It will devastate your credit, of course, which will bump up your insurance rates. It may also make it harder to sign a lease. There’s also the question of what you would do for housing over the next six years – not knowing the Seattle area rental market, you may or may not be able to find something that matches your current residence.

If I were you guys, I’d probably stick with my current situation and focus on paying down the debt on the condo. Keep your nose out in the job market and see what you can come up with.

I am a soon-to-be (5/8/10) college graduate, and I will be starting graduate school in the fall. Since I am pursuing a bioscience Ph.D., I am granted a full tuition waiver and a stipend of ~$26,000. Graduating from a private university, I have $40,000 in loans. This is a loan from my university at 1% simple interest, and I can have the interest deferred until January of 2014. There are no penalties for paying early, and the payments are calculated to be ~$350 per month to pay the loan back in 10 years. Since I have a steady stream of income from my graduate work, I would like to begin paying off the loan as soon as possible. Should I put money into the loan each month starting in September to pay down the principle, or should I put the money in a high-interest savings account and make a large payment with the first bill in 2014?
- Andrew

You should save money in a savings account. A 1% student loan should be an incredibly low priority for repayment. You can easily earn more than that with your own savings. I would pay that loan off as slowly as possible.

In fact, some people do this as a money-making venture, taking advantage of zero percent balance transfers on credit cards, putting the money in a savings account, and then paying the amount back after nine months, pocketing the interest.

Are you going to be doing a book tour of any kind for your upcoming book release? If you’re anywhere near me, I’d love to come!
- Shelley

Although I haven’t set anything up outside of central Iowa yet around the time of the book’s release, I am planning on visiting several Midwest cities throughout the summer.

If you know of a venue in Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, or Indianapolis that would fit well for a book signing / presentation this summer, please let me know. I’m pretty flexible with the travel dates (for the most part), as I’ll be tying these trips in with visits to family members and friends in the area. In fact, if you have an opportunity anywhere in the Midwest, let me know, and I’d be willing to travel to the coasts for certain opportunities.

I am currently discussing joining a group that will represent me in setting up speaking engagements so that I don’t have to directly set them up myself.

If I hammer down any specific speaking dates or book signings this summer, I’ll let you all know.

I love reading your e-mails and find many of the ideas/thoughts intriguing. I too am a writer and have small children at home. Most days I am overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do (maintain the house, pay bills, etc.), my work and the things I want to do (spend focused time with my children, pursue writing avenues outside of my current contract to do more of the kind of writing I would like to do, etc.), not to mention just taking some time for me to relax and recharge. At the end of the day, many times I feel as if I haven’t got a whole lot accomplished and what I did do wasn’t to the best of my ability. Would you mind sharing an example(s) of what your daily schedule looks like, so I have something to wrap my brain around?
- Wendi

I usually segment my day pretty strongly.

I usually have a morning segment, starting as soon as my immediate morning tasks are done, where I buckle down and focus on my work as tightly as I can. I have a set checklist of things that I need to do each day (write two posts, etc.) and I work through that list during a morning session.

I usually also have an afternoon session where I’m free to explore other things. Sometimes during that period, I’ll write more posts for The Simple Dollar. Sometimes, I’ll chase other writing opportunities. Other days, I might just walk away and take my kids to the park or something.

The evenings – usually starting at 5 PM – I focus directly on my family until my two older children are in bed. Nothing interrupts this – nothing.

After that, I’ll sometimes (if I have enough energy) get a jump on tomorrow’s morning checklist.

I was married for 31 years, and lost my husband to a heart attack. He was an only child, and his parents made investments in his name when he was young. For 31 years, I lived in a fairy tale world (although I didn’t realize it). My husband always told me that we would be taken care of in our old age. I purchased a print shop with money his mother loaned me (his father is deceased), with the unspoken rule of “pay me back when you are able. The loan was set up so that, when his mother died, the loan would transfer to my husband, so it would be “my” shop paying “us” back the loan.

Fast forward to now. I have been widowed for three years. My mother-in-law is 90. I found out that I am not going to be taken care of “in my old age.” Plus I had to sell our real estate to her to pay for the loans she made to me for the shop. I am 55 years old, and owner of a print shop that is barely making ends meet. I know I’ll never make back the money my mother-in-law loaned me, but I’ve accepted that. What scares me, however, is that I have no real estate, and only $20,000 in CDs, $10,000 in a Roth IRA and probably close to $20,000 in my husband’s IRA. I am completely out of debt (no credit cards, etc.), but I don’t know how I am going to live in the future. I am trying to sell the print shop but, even if I sell or close it, I will be lucky to come out without owing money.

I would appreciate your thoughts.
- Susan

Obviously, in this situation, you’re going to need to work for quite a few years from here on out.

What skills do you have? You own a print shop – what transferable skills did you pick up from the print shop? How can they be employed at the print shop or in someone else’s employ?

What is the value of the print shop if you were to sell the business – or if you would liquidate it? You should consider this part of your retirement.

If you’re unsure about the print shop business, I’d sell it, sock away that money for your old age, and then look for work that employs your skill set.

If you feel guilty about the money situation, talk it over with your mother-in-law. It’s likely she lost a son too early and is completely understanding of your situation, especially given the conditions under which she loaned you the money. She may have viewed the entire thing as a gift.

I have a close cousin that is having serious money struggles right now. He’s barely able to make his bills, and even then only with his parent’s help usually. His wife is a spender and refuses to grasp the reality that they just don’t have money to spend right now. His marriage seems to be falling apart as a result. He doesn’t know a lot about personal finance, and aside from referring him to your site, which I plan to do, do you know of any good “one-stop-shopping” personal finance books that would be good to pass his way? Maybe something about basic personal finance with emphasis on saving when there’s not a lot of money to save? He’s 38 years old with no health insurance (self-employed), no retirement and no savings and I’m worried about his future.
- Erin

I don’t think the “nuts and bolts” personal finance books help much at all unless you’ve decided in your mind that you’re going to take control of your money. That’s a very personal decision and it can be a very difficult one.

Honestly, the book I would give him would either be Your Money or Your Life or my own upcoming book, The Simple Dollar. Both books, I think, make a strong case for why you should take control of your finances, which is what I think a lot of people struggle with.

You’ve given some great music recommendations in the past – you turned me on to Aimee Mann, after all. Who have you been listening to lately?
- Shanya

I looked at my iTunes library and extracted all of my played songs over the last year. I then sorted these by artist to find out who my top-played artists were over the past year. They were, in order (with links to YouTube so you can hear the song):

1. Kate Bush (most played song: Wuthering Heights – Kate is officially my “writing muse”)
2. Blind Melon (most played song: No Rain)
3. M. Ward (most played song: Absolute Beginners)
4. She & Him (most played song: Sentimental Heart)
5. Vampire Weekend (most played song: Mansard Roof)
6. Cat Power (most played song: I Don’t Blame You)
7. Jeff Buckley (most played song: Hallelujah)
8. Gillian Welch (most played song: Revelator)
9. A Fine Frenzy (most played song: Rangers)
10. Regina Spektor (most played song: Fidelity)

Interesting list. I don’t know if I would have guessed these artists as my top ten, but it makes at least some sense to me.

In any case, head over to Pandora – you’ve got some listening to do!

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. Trent, I’m looking forward to your Getting Things Done series!

    @Mike – It’ll be much cheaper to rent a storage unit, and even pay for a few hotel stays, than keep your lease. As Trent said, pare down your belongings so you can rent the smallest unit possible — or ask friends or family if you can stash some stuff in their attic or basement!

  2. Miguel says:

    Hi there Trent (and everyone else)! I hope my question doesn’t get lost in all these comments! :)

    I’ll be moving to the USA (I’m from Portugal) during the next Summer (probably around the middle of August), since I will start my PhD in September.

    I’ll be moving to the DC Metro Area, since my University (GMU) will be located in Arlington.

    Can you give me any advice on looking for small apartments?! Any there any websites specifically designed for students (especially foreign ones)?

    If I can afford it, I’ll try to live without roommates, do you think that this is achievable with a scholarship of around 2000 USD per month? (the euro has been dropping lately so I guess by summer this is the amount it will be worth…)

    Besides that, can you give me advices (financial or otherwise) regarding living in the USA for someone who has never even visited it?!

    Thanks.

  3. Kat says:

    Wait a minute: Cheryl has $85,000 in CDs, as she said she had enough to PAY OFF the mortgage. Why isn’t continuing to pay the mortgage while finding a new tenant an option, why is she even looking at foreclosure? Yes, she is unemployed, but she has $85k in savings, that should be enough to live off of until she gets another job or another tenant, even WITH paying that mortgage.

    Also, I am at a loss of why Maria wants to walk away from her condo. Fine, it’s gut wrenching that you paid way too much for it, but you agreed to pay that much. Since you are not saying you cannot afford food because of the mortgage payment, and you have no compelling reason to leave, I don’t get it.

  4. Miguel says:

    A question for a future reader mailbag:

    Hi there Trent (and everyone else)! I hope my question doesn’t get lost in all these comments! :)

    I’ll be moving to the USA (I’m from Portugal) during the next Summer (probably around the middle of August), since I will start my PhD in September.

    I’ll be moving to the DC Metro Area, since my University (GMU) will be located in Arlington.

    Can you give me any advice on looking for small apartments?! Any there any websites specifically designed for students (especially foreign ones)?

    If I can afford it, I’ll try to live without roommates, do you think that this is achievable with a scholarship of around 2000 USD per month? (the euro has been dropping lately so I guess by summer this is the amount it will be worth…)

    Besides that, can you give me advices (financial or otherwise) regarding living in the USA for someone who has never even visited it?!

    Thanks.

  5. KC says:

    Andrew – Do not pay off that loan except in the minimum payments required. You will never, NEVER get another real loan for 1% for anything in this world (real meaning coming from an institution, bank, etc, not a cushy loan from a friend or family member). Do as Trent says an put the money in a savings account or CD. You should be able to find something paying you more than 1%.

    Ten years after I graduated from grad school my debt-free parents were still paying loans from my undergrad (which wasn’t very costly). I asked Dad why he didn’t just pay it off. He said the interest rate was 2.5% and his money market paid him 4%. He was making money off my loans.

    In your case, unlike my parents, you are going to have other things to buy that you may need to borrow for (a house). You won’t get an interest rate that low. If you are worried about your credit score, don.t. If you pay your loans and any other payments on-time every time you’ll have a good credit rating anyway. Don’t run up any unnecessary debt like credit cards (use them if you want and pay them off monthly). My husband and I managed an 800+ credit score when we had school and consumer debt by paying everything on time, every time. You can have some debt and still have a good credit score. Good luck with your new degree!

  6. Kevin says:

    “Some people do this as a money-making venture, taking advantage of zero percent balance transfers on credit cards, putting the money in a savings account, and then paying the amount back after nine months, pocketing the interest.”

    That’s called “credit arbitrage,” and it’s not as easy as it looks. 0% offers are getting harder to find, and come with strings attached. Sometimes the maximum amount makes it not worth the trouble. Many credit cards charge “account setup fees” that outweigh any possible interest advantage. They also have dangerous “gotchas” buried in the fine print (for example, it’s interest-free for the first 364 days, but on the 365th day, if there’s even 1 penny still owing on the card, you pay ALL the interest that would have accrued during the past year, at the regular interest rate of 12.99% or whatever). So you really have to pay attention to the details and know what you’re doing.

    In addition, the interest rates paid by savings account are pretty piddly. Say you do this with $10,000 and stick it in a savings account paying 1.75%. You come out with a grand total of $175. However, interest income is taxed at your full marginal rate. So really, you only pocket about $100 of that, after paying the taxes.

    Is it worth the hassle of applying for the card, reading the fine print, paying careful attention to any incoming mail watching for sudden changes to the terms of the loan (which they always “reserve the right” to make, without any notice), adding the complexity to your income tax return, messing with your credit score, and everything else – just for $100? I would say “no, no it isn’t.”

  7. Jon says:

    Mike –

    I second Trent’s idea. Talk to your employer about them paying for temporary housing when you come back into town to be at your local office. I would think if they are asking you to sacrifice your personal life and activities for a year then a few weeks in temporary housing should be easy enough to swing for them.
    If it were me and they were willing to do that, I would definitely not renew the lease. I would sell literally EVERYTHING I could and find a friend or relative I could store anything else with (offer to pay them). Then I would take the money from selling everything and buy some really quality traveling gear. Nice, sturdy luggage. Comfortable clothes. And quality gadgets (iPod, lightweight personal laptop, hookups for laptop to TV’s, GPS, camera etc.). Anything to make your life on the road easier.
    Then, enjoy your time on the road. Research the cities you will be in and really explore them. Don’t spend all your time in the hotel. It makes all the difference.
    Eat healthy while traveling and exercise. It makes all the moral difference in the world (personal experience).

  8. Jon says:

    Mike –
    Almost forgot…
    If you are staying in hotels while you travel, renting a car, flying, etc, then don’t forget the rewards points you will be piling up. If your employer won’t pay for stuff while you are at the home office, you should have more than enough points built up to compensate and get MANY free nights somewhere, free car rentals, etc.
    Take advantage of this time to minimize expenses as much as possible (rent, utilities, internet, car payment, insurance, food) and sock all that money away.

  9. J says:

    @Erin — I’m very surprised that Trent didn’t also add in “The Total Money Makeover”. It’s a dead simple personal finance book that lays out a plan that can be followed by pretty much anyone. The “Financial Peace” book, also by Dave Ramsey, talks about some of the “why”. The baby steps outlined in TMM can be very effective for people who just want someone to tell them what to do and don’t want to know all the theory and minutiae of personal finance, they want to get some “wins”. As they become more savvy, they will likely want to know more.

    I’ve also read “Your Money or Your Life”, and it might be too “cerebral”, “out there” and “esoteric” for someone who is dipping into PF and has to convince their spouse of “why”. The exercises in the book (like figuring out your net worth) might make the book seem “too hard” and it will just collect dust.

    As for the marriage falling apart and dealing with the personal lives of others, I advise treading extremely lightly. Since these people are your family, you likely will know them the rest of your life!

  10. Johanna says:

    Sounds to me like Mike’s already talked to his employer about temporary housing, and that they already have a policy of not paying for housing for employees working at their “home office.”

    Mike, is there a way you could sublet your apartment for a year? Maybe you could leave the furniture there for the tenant to use, put all your other stuff in boxes in a corner or a closet, and get your apartment back at the end of the year. Depending on who you sublet to, you might even be able to arrange to crash on your own couch for the week or so that you’re back in town.

  11. J says:

    Trent — I submitted a comment that went into moderation. I’ve had some that went in previously and never got out of the “please be patient …..” stage after a few days. There are no hyperlinks, swear words, or other offensive parts in it, it’s not excessively long and this is the first comment I’ve added in well over 24 hours. So it seems you might have a bug in your moderation queue somewhere.

  12. Nicole says:

    I agree with Kat on both points.

  13. Jon says:

    @Johanna

    If Mike has indeed already asked and found out the official policy, then I would suggest he ask again. Ask the company if they would think it logical to rent an office building that sat empty except for a one week convention every year. Obviously not. They would rent a convention center for that one week.
    If he truly is only back 1 week for the entire year, they should be more than willing to accommodate. And at least subsidize housing when he gets back for a few weeks. He is giving up his life for 1 year for this company. Any reasonable company should recognize that. If they can’t, imagine how he will get treated once on the road.

  14. @Kat Cheryl indicated that the mortgage is $85k but if she sells it might be a short sale which implies that she thinks it might be worth less than $85k. If she uses her $85k in CDs to pay off the mortgage then she is in effect buying that house for $85k when it might be worth a lot less. She’s asking if she should just take the foreclosure hit instead.

    I agree with your suggestion that she should just use some of the $85k in CDs to cover the mortgage while looking for a new tenant. I’m not sure why she said she can’t do this – perhaps the money is in a retirement account?

  15. Ellen says:

    Mike – many hotel chains will give you a weekly rate at a savings, as well as there being a lot of hotel chains designed for people in your situation, with kitchens etc & are reasonably priced. Or, as others said, find a friend, relative or coworker you can bunk in with, or just rent a room in a house.

    Maria – the condo situation fits well with Trent’s recent posts about ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ You ‘need’ a place to live, already have one & can afford it. You ‘want’ to have a place where you’re not underwater & the property is holding or gaining value, which is hard to come by in this market. With the situation you’re in, it’s better for the time being to stay where you are. Going into foreclosure really messes up your credit scores & ability to get future loans, plus can be looked on unfavorably by potential future employers, which should be good given the info you shared. Unless you expect to be relocating soon, as long as you can pay for the house over your head, you’ve got what was purchased (your house) and are in better shape than a lot of folks.

    Susan – did you factor social security into this? If you haven’t, contact them or visit their website for info regarding widow’s benefits & whether you’re better off claiming on your earnings or your husbands. Perhaps you could find a partner for the shop that would bring additional skills/services – and their buy-in would give you some cash to save toward retirement. If you are pulling an income out of the shop, then it’s time to bare-bones it and start funding more IRAs or other investments.

  16. Honey says:

    My boyfriend is an attorney and I can sympathize with Kristen – he has $100K in student loan debt (some private, some federal) and $40K in credit card debt (and he’s already paid back about $15K in credit cards, so it was originally much more). He makes $90K a year and it is still slow going.

    I would wonder if it is possible to cut back expenses anywhere to increase the amount she is able to contribute to her loans. How much is the rent with her boyfriend? Can they move to a smaller place? Does she live in a place where she could sell her car, or could she and her boyfriend share one?

  17. Des says:

    RE: Maria’s situation

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people think about investments. “I bought this item and now it isn’t worth what I paid for it. Shouldn’t someone else have to foot the bill for that? Surely you don’t expect me to pay for my own decisions, do you?” Unbelievable!

  18. Gemond says:

    One word: Sublet

    Depending on your lease, you can often sublet your apartment.

    And this idea of just not renewing a lease? Does this person live in a place where rental housing is readily available in the location and at the price they want at any time? Cause if it isn’t, this is a consideration.

    We know tons of people who travel heavily during the year. The majority sublet their apartments for some or all of that time (it works if you live in a major city where there are also people looking for less-expensive options than hotels).

    Here’s another reason NOT to just jettison that lease: Sometimes those jobs don’t work out (even with a contract) because you don’t like it or the company cans you. Then you have all the trouble of getting a new place even if you gave up one you loved.

    This makes it seem as if all apartments are created equal, which they aren’t. Plus, I can’t believe no one suggested subletting.

  19. Johanna says:

    @Jon: Well, there’s no harm in asking, I suppose, but I’d guess that the answer’s much more likely to be “no” than “yes.” If I were the employer, I’d say, “Well, if you’re already saving so much money by giving up your apartment, why do you want me to pay for your hotel too?”

    Also, anyone who views traveling the world on somebody else’s dime as “giving up his life” maybe shouldn’t be in a job that involves that kind of travel.

  20. Nate says:

    Mike,

    A couple years ago I was traveling every week for work and went through a divorce. After the house was sold I elected to not find another place to live since my employer was paying for a hotel 5 days a week. So for about 18 months I was ‘homeless’ and I’m glad I did it. Some thoughts:

    All my stuff was in a storage unit or my car. As time went on I visited my storage unit to get to stuff less frequently. That experiment gave me a more minimalist mindset on what I really needed to be happy and thrive on a day-to-day basis. To this day I benefit from not thinking about collecting ‘stuff’ as much and even getting rid of things I had to de-clutter my life. I also gained habits of always knowing where my important things were, like in this article. http://thelifething.com/health-and-fitness/get-super-structured-to-be-craftily-carefree-and-awesome/

    Also, once I established a place I had a higher appreciation of having access to all my things. I think I missed my book collection the most, and a fully-stocked kitchen the second most.

    For the weekends I heavily relied on staying with friends or family or using hotel points for free rooms. The affect of this was that it helped build relationships which is something I’m not normally good at. Some nights I elected to camp out or sleep in my car. Sounds sad but those were some of my favorite times. I COULD have paid for a hotel or called a friend, but that feeling of freedom, of not having to maintain a home, not having to be anywhere at the end of the day…was an incredibly liberating experience for me.

    I live in Iowa, so the cost of rent or a mortgage of a decent home is like $500-$900, I get the impression you live in a place where the cost of living is much higher to consider going homeless for just a couple months. For me, the cost and effort of moving my things into storage and THEN back into a new residence would be too great to make that worth it…especially if you’ll have to pay for your own hotel on several occasions. You’ll have to forward mail to a PO Box, cancel utilities, start them back up etc… So think about how much your personal time is worth to you, moving is always harder in practice than in theory.

    After a while I used different suitcases do sort out my clothes like casual, work, socks n underwear, dirty, etc (I had a big car). Can do your laundry in hotels, buy your own detergent and take it with you. One hotel got to know me so well they washed and folded my laundry for me regularly. I bought a nice toiletry travel organizer that had a pocket for every item and could be hung up when opened for full access to all that stuff. I NEVER had to unpack and re-pack that, just zipped open and hung it up no matter where I was sleeping that night.

    Watch out for these extra expenses: I now have a bunch of extra winter gloves and hats and socks that I bought because I didn’t have full access to ALL my clothes at any one time and kept having to pay for not carefully planning ahead…which for six weeks at a time can be tough. I started to make lists on my smartphone about what to leave and what to get the next time I’d hit my storage. Also you’ll probably spend more on food because you won’t have a kitchen to store staples in. I’d get used to eating good on the company dollar during the week and eating light with inexpensive, non-perishable meals like tuna in pouches and granola bars on the weekends. Otherwise you’ll gain a lot of weight and spend more money.

    But for two months? I’d be looking at is as a spiritual quest to re-define your relationship to stuff than something that’ll save you money!

    It’s really nice to not have to clean your bathroom or make your own bed for a long period of time. To this day I still space out way too long in the shower because I gained that habit in hotels since I wasn’t paying for that hot water.

    I’m glad I did it, and also glad it’s over with! Good luck.

  21. Scott says:

    @Maria

    Trent, it seems like you’re giving advice to Maria based on limited, possibly faulty, information. I live in the area and work on MS campus and follow the local housing market. Maria doesn’t say, but I’m guessing that her unit is a one bedroom apartment conversion. The bank is unsuccessfully trying to unload a one bedroom in her complex for $170K. I’d be surprised if they get $110K given the special assessment.
    I rent a nice one bedroom at an upscale complex in the area for $925/mo. It might make sense to follow the sale of the bank owned unit and depending on what it sales for, be ready to contact a lawyer, write off your losses and walk away.
    I really hate to see people with good intentions getting rolled by the system.

  22. J says:

    “Also, anyone who views traveling the world on somebody else’s dime as “giving up his life” maybe shouldn’t be in a job that involves that kind of travel.”

    You have very obviously have not worked a job that has a heavy travel component that I don’t know where to begin, but I’ll try.

    First off, you have absolutely no control over the place you are going. You could possibly be spending a lot of time in a motel room in the middle of nowhere, where there is a plant, a bar and a hotel. It’s not all cool and cosmopolitan cities, expensive meals out and setting your own schedule.

    Second is that you likely are going to be seeing the same old conference room day and and day out. And the days are likely LONG. Spending all day at a client’s site, then having to do dinner or catch up on your own email at night or in the morning takes up a lot of time.

    In addition, making plans with friends and family becomes well nigh impossible to do when you are on call and on the road. Attending any scheduled event, be it a ball game, wedding or birthday is always at the whim of your employer. Trying to date or maintain a family life is extremely tough. I haven’t even gotten to the total pain in the rear that is air travel, overbooked hotel rooms and any number of other inconveniences that get you all along the way.

    Why would anyone take a heavy travel job? One reason is that it can be a tremendous springboard to career development. When you are johnny-on-the-spot at a customer site, it forces you to think quick and be resourceful. You learn because you have to. Also, the compensation can be tremendously better than a comparable office job, and you can get a lot of your expenses covered. So if you want to take on a pile of debt or save up a big wad of money to use to do something else, a year of your life may be an OK trade off, especially for the young and unattached.

    Don’t get me entirely wrong — business trips and travel can be GREAT. If you travel with other people a lot you can have some awesome times and make some great friendships. But getting stuck in some backwoods town in the wilds of Wisconsin in a flea-infested motel in February, working 14 hour days while you missed your buddy’s birthday party to make an early flight, yeah, that’s putting your life on hold.

    Companies should indeed go out of their way to keep the road warriors happy. They are the ones out there meeting customers directly and likely raking in piles of business. If they have to spring for a hotel room when they are “home” (which becomes quite a nebulous concept) and that employee covers the cost easily by bringing in piles of revenue, why not agree to pay for it?

  23. Angela says:

    @Maria
    stay lazer focused on paying it down (you’ll have to sacrafice!)and you’ll find paying the home down instead of passing the problem to someone else will bring you great satifaction. I gaurantee you’ll learn much more by attacking the problem this way. My husband and I have done just that and after 5 years we have put $80,000 into our home, and we still owe more than it’s worth. But, we are getting closer. I’ve had my fair share of complaining but I would never consider pushing the poor investment choice into someone elses lap. Enjoy the journey, life isn’t all about money.

  24. Stephanie says:

    Heavy travel is not all fun and games. A former housemates job is supposed to be 50% travel but has been over 80% for the past year. He has been sent to places like Akron, CA, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Egypt for weeks at a time with minimal notice. This time he is home for three days before he leaves again when he was told he would be home for two weeks. So far he has missed Christmas (India), Easter (Egypt), both kid’s birthdays, his wife’s birthday, their anniversary (Brazil)and three weddings. Skype is a great way to communicate with your children at 11pm on a school night when you are on the other side of the planet.
    He is beyond fed up but there are no openings elsewhere and he has been looking for six months because his seven year old is forgetting what he looks like.

  25. Cheryl says:

    Is Mike going to be driving or flying? How about an RV? Stay in it on the road and back at the home office.

  26. I really like your idea of a “getting things done” weekly piece. I think that productivity is what separates those that really make it from those that wish they did.

    I’m not talking about workaholics either. Productivity means that you are working smarter as well. I’m excited to see what you come up with in those posts.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  27. jim says:

    Mike: If you won’t be home more than 10% of the time then a storage unit and motel stays should be cheaper. If you’ll be home more than that you could look into renting a room in a house that you’d have available to stay at when you’re in town. That would still save you a lot on rent and utilities and give you a place to sleep when you’re in town. I honestly wouldn’t expect your employer to pay for your local housing as a perk as Trent suggests, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

    Cheryl: I’d put the house on the market and try to sell it. Is the mortgage transferable by any chance? If the tenant wants to buy and could somehow swing that then let him take it off your hands. I’d negotiate with him and even chip in money if he wants it. You’d save on realtor commission that way. Take whatever rent the tenant can give you in the meantime. If you have to sell at a loss then I’d consider doing so. Right now that house has no value and is a liability. Its best to get rid of it especially since you’re unemployed.

  28. Trent, you refer the soon-to-be graduate towards taking 0% balance transfer offers as a way of making money off the 1% student loan he has.

    This would work if his loan interest weren’t so small. Unfortunately most balance transfer offers now have an immediate 3% transfer fee. This works for offers that run 0% for a year or more, and used against debt at an interest over 3%.

    The best advice for him is to still pay it off as slowly as possible and just contribute excess money to his emergency fund, savings, retirement, and future housing situation.

    In his case, no need to overcomplicate things.

  29. SimplySara says:

    @ Andrew – I am an admin in a lab at a research institution in Southern California with a graduate school and our stipend is around $26,000 as well. The graduate students in my laboratory struggle to make ends meet. If you happen to be going to graduate school in Southern California, or another high cost of living area, you will likely have similar problems. When you become a postdoc, you will also be paid a rather low wage of about $37K a year and by that time you will be required to pay your loan. It may seem like a lot of money to you now, but at least give yourself time to see what living on 26K is like before you start paying off a loan with such a low interest rate. Many of our students thought their stipend seemed like a lot of money in the beginning but now have high credit card balances because they didn’t plan on graduate school being much different than their undergraduate education. Many didn’t expect to need a vehicle or realize that they wouldn’t have time to cook so they eat most of their meals at the cafeteria (which is reasonably priced but still more expensive than cooking at home). Most of them share apartments not only with housemates, but often they also share their bedroom with a roommate. If you will be going to school somewhere that cost of living is really inexpensive, that is awesome and you can likely pay off a large part of your loan now, but if you will be going somewhere that most apartments in a 20 mile radius are $1000-$1200 for a one bedroom and $1600-$2000 for a two bedroom (like our institute), you will have a hard time. I don’t want to discourage you or scare you but I have found than many graduate students don’t realize their stipend will not stretch that far.

  30. JT says:

    Mike: You need to talk with a tax professional, one that deals with travelers. Here’s why.

    If you do not have a permanent tax home according to the IRS rules, you are an itinerant worker. Your tax home will basically shift to wherever you are at that exact moment. Everything your employer pays toward your accommodation, meals, etc. will be taxed. So for example, if your employer spends $2,000 in a month for housing/meals, and you’re taxed 20%, you will find an additional $400 taken out of your paycheck.

    Now, if you do have a permanent tax home, and your employer sends you away from home, then all the money spent on your housing and meals will NOT be taxed. There are many rules you have to follow. For one, you cannot just rent out your apartment to someone else. You COULD rent out just one room though. Basically you have to prove that there’s a duplication of expenses. Again, talk to a tax professional who deals with travelers.

    Depending on the numbers, the tax savings (and the savings from not having to pay for storage) might be greater than the actual cost of rent. In the example above, if your employer was paying out $4,000 for housing/meals and you’re taxed at 20%, that’s $800/mo. That number could be higher or lower of course. You get the idea.

  31. Julia says:

    I’m glad to hear you’re going to be writing about Getting Things Done. You see, I’ve found the greatest value in The Simple Dollar and other financial blogs is that I get a daily reminder of all the financial/frulality tools I already know. A daily reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish and why. This is something that no personal finance book can offer, as I read them and forget about them within a couple weeks.
    On the other hand, I’ve had David Allen’s book sitting on my bookshelf for many months. I just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Part of my lack of motivation to read it is that I expect I’ll probably forget everything just like I do with personal finance books. I’ll try to read through it once before you start your series, then maybe that series will serve at my regular reminder.
    Thanks again for a the wonderful insights you put into every post.

  32. Steve says:

    @Maria: I live in Bellevue, WA too so I do know the market. The greater Seattle area was recently listed as one of the top 5 cities where renting is cheaper than buying. The home prices out here are just ridiculous – and they were even more ridiculous 3 years ago when Maria’s husband bought.

    So while I am not endorsing (nor condemning) the idea of walking away from one’s mortgage; the numbers would probably favor doing so. Also Maria mentioned 6 years to buy the next place – well, if she could make that 7 years or so, the foreclosure would fall off their credit reports by then.

    This story is a glaring example of why I would never buy a place that was in a housing association of any kind. You can really get socked with so-called “special assessments” – which seem to happen inevitably, so what’s so special about them? At least if you own a house and have to replace the roof, you can make your own decisions regarding tradeoffs and whatnot – since your spending your own money and not other people’s money.

  33. Julia says:

    Maria,
    Do you think you can make room for a renter? There’s got to be hundreds of recent college grads getting jobs or trying to get jobs at Microsoft that would love to live closer to the campus and can’t afford to on their own.
    If you choose this route, and set the price right, you will never be without a renter. I’m in Olympia and pay $600/mo for my 1 room apt. I’d guess in Seattle this same apt. probably costs $800. So if you have an extra room, you can probably bring in an extra $400-600/mo which would more than cover your renovation payment(you should verify this by looking at Craigslist to see what rooms are being listed for).
    Good luck!

  34. Murder Your Debt says:

    I don’t see any reason not to pay off the student loan debt. Living with debt kills your potential and who knows what the future will bring and whether or not this person will be able to pay them off at that time. If they have the means to pay off the debt today, they should be doing it whether the loan has 1% interest or not. They still owe the bank $40,000, which is $400 a year in interest charges. It hardly seems worth putting that money in the bank to earn barely anything more on those interest rates, especially after they are taxed on their earnings.

    Pay off your debt, always…no exceptions.

  35. Jon says:

    @ Johanna

    “Well, if you’re already saving so much money by giving up your apartment, why do you want me to pay for your hotel too?”

    I would say “I’ll be living in an unfamiliar city with no friends or family, and no permanent home”.

    From the sounds of it, this is not a job that initially required that kind of travel. It also sounds like it has a definite end, meaning it is not typical of the position.

    He may be traveling on someone else’s dime, but that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t get additional compensation. It’s not like he is asking for 6 months of accommodations. I guess it all depends on how cheap your company is.

  36. TLS says:

    Re: Maria’s situation, in response to Steve, comment #22

    I, too, live in the same area (Redmond, WA). My boyfriend and I live in a condo as well.

    To explain about ‘special assessments’, this is how they work. The condo owners pay monthly dues and this money goes into an account (the reserves) for upkeep of the grounds and condo buildings. If there is enough money in the reserves for any needed renovations or other work, no special assessment is needed. The money just comes out of the reserves. However, if the reserves cannot cover the necessary work, a special assessment is levied. And the condo association members all have to pay that (what happened in Maria’s case).

    This happens often because the dues in condo assocations are often too low to cover renovations and other – planned or unplanned – work. Our condo association’s dues are rather high, but the reserves are quite healthy, and we have not had any special assessments (to date). Some members of the assocation want to lower the dues, because they think the amount is too high. What they don’t seem to understand is that paying a little more each month can help to protect you from a huge assessment, which would certainly be a financial blow to almost any condo owner.

    So that’s how it works. Before buying into a condo assocation, you have a right to examine information about the reserves (I’m not sure how many people do this though). In Washington state, all condo boards are now required to have the ‘health’ of their reserves assessed by a professional. I do not know if this is the law elsewhere.

  37. SEC Lawyer says:

    This series could be very useful. Much is said in business and professional life about “planning” and “execution.” Brilliant planners tend to get a lot of love because “thinking big thoughts” is sexy. But studies show that execution, while unglamorous, is more important than planning. The ideal situation is excellent planning combined with excellent execution. But studies show that it’s better to have even a mediocre plan that is executed excellently than it is to have an excellent plan executed in mediocre fashion.

  38. Jeff says:

    Trent:

    If you like the song Hallelujah, try KD Lang’s version. I think she sings the definitive version (IMHO)!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYiMJ2bC65A

    [ Jeff ]

  39. anne says:

    cheryl-

    have you considered finding a new tenant??

  40. tentaculistic says:

    Heathcliff! It’s meee, your Catheee, I’ve come hoooooome, it’s so coooold, let me in at your windo-o-o-ow!

    Ok, I didn’t read the whole post, just got stuck on the Kate Bush.

    Earworm, here we come. Heathcliff…

  41. tentaculistic says:

    Obviously I’m the most shallow (or just musically fixated at the moment), I just want to talk music here. Trent, I’m glad for the YouTube links, several of those songs are Pandora favorites that I’ve bought in MP3, but never seen in video.

    If you like the cool melodic music for writing, have you ever listened to JayMay’s “Sea Green, Sea Blue”, Plumb’s “Always”, Missy Higgins’ “Where I Stood”, Priscilla Ahn’s “Wallflower”, Yael Naim’s “New Soul”, Adele “Make You Feel My Love”, BarlowGirl “Never Alone”… ok I need to stop now :)

  42. Diane says:

    First: There have been many excellent comments posted for Maria.

    Second, I wonder how she would feel if her husband’s investment had doubled in value? Her sniveling and thinly veiled blaming of her husband’s decision are extremely difficult to stomach. Instead of being grateful for having gainful employment and the ability to keep a roof over her head, we get the following:

    “Trent, it’s gut-wrenching to know that we’re paying such a high price on a home whose value is so much less than the inflated price my husband paid.”

    As to the association and special assessment: I wonder if Maria has ever attended a board meeting. I am happy to be a board member of my HOA’s well run-100% reserve funded-with below market dues (which haven’t increased in two years and are not expected to rise next year either) board. How do we do it? We have a professional management company and we do what we can ourselves to keep our overhead low. We welcome homeowners to our meetings, but non-board members seldom care enough to attend. “Bad” associations are created by uncaring, uninvolved homeowners.

    Many years ago, I was a member of a different association. There was to be a $6000 (the equivalent of 6+ mortgage payments) special assessment to cover the cost of replacing the roofs. As a board member, I asked if it was necessary to replace all of the roofs at once. We investigated and determined that they could be done over three year’s time. Hence, no special assessment, roofs paid for from reserves, and cost of phase 2 and 3 actually came in below the original estimates. One question saved us all thousands of dollars. Get involved, people!

  43. J. O. says:

    @ Trent: Susan has already paid back her mother in law. See 2nd paragraph of her letter:

    “Plus I had to sell our real estate to her to pay for the loans she made to me for the shop.”

  44. Kevin says:

    My favorite version of Wuthering Heights is by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. You can hear it on YouTube.
    Also you should check out the Newsboys for great music.

  45. Stephen says:

    @Mike — I was in your exact situation 2 years ago, and decided to give up my lease and officially “live on the road” for a year. I was able to save *tons* of money that year (more than 50% of my income) because of per diems, free flights, free rental car and gas, and credit card rewards.

    My advice — slim down your belongings and put them into a portable storage container. That way, when you end up moving back (or not), the items can be delivered to you and the move will be as easy as pie. You can also access the contents of the box if you need to. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with my then girlfriend and other friends when I was back in town, and would pay for a nice dinner out or some other gift to thank them.

  46. dj says:

    @Kristen – I just want to encourage you as you attack the law school debt. I graduated law school in ’07 with comparable debt and have seen the balance decrease by about 20% since then, slooooooowly but steadily.

    Your private loan rates seem really high. You have probably checked already, but contact your lender to see if it will reduce your rates for consecutive months of on-time payments, auto-deduct, a full moon :-), or any other reason. Even if the rate decrease comes 3 years down the line, it will help your repayment plan. Good luck!

  47. AmyG says:

    @Maria’s condo situation. I am so tired of hearing people talk about walking away from a situation that THEY got themselves into because it’s no longer a good deal for them. This couple is not facing a financial meltdown…they make $85,000 a year and have 25,000 in savings plus a 6 month emergency fund! This is absolutely lame and selfish to even think about “walking away from what we owe.”

    My house in Michigan was appraised at $186,000 last September. It appraised at $310,000 5 years ago when we had it refinanced. I about cried when I read the appraiser’s report but I sure didn’t wonder how I could ditch my mortgage and move on. I bought this house with my eyes wide open and did my homework. Sure the market tanked and we never expected that much of a drop…but I’ll be darned if I’m going to walk away from it just so I can have a clean slate to start over. Buck up, people!

  48. J says:

    I’ll also echo Stephen’s road-warrior trips and add a few of my own:

    - If you are going to be on the road a lot, you will be dealing with odd cash flows from expense reimbursements versus your regular income. It can really be very helpful to have a separate account and credit card for business expenses only. If it’s an option, have the expense reimbursements direct-deposited to the expenses account and your regular income directed to your personal account.

    - When “on the road”, go entirely cash-free. Any expense, no matter how minor, goes on the expenses credit card. This way, you get an itemized back-up list of expenses on the credit card statement if you lose a receipt, which is often acceptable for your accounting department. It goes without saying that this credit card should be a rewards card of some kind, and the rewards should be something you are interested in redeeming.

    - Keep on top of the expense reports. Start one the beginning of the week and update it as soon as you can. Keep all receipts in an envelope for this week’s expense report, don’t let them get jumbled up.

    - If at all possible, stay in the same hotel chain, fly the same airline (or airline family) and use the same rental car company. Sign up for the rewards programs from these companies. You will accumulate the perks more quickly to get you express check-in, drop off at the rental car, priority boarding and better customer service.

    - Learn to pack LIGHT. You don’t need to worry about losing your luggage when you pack everything for a week in a carry-on.

    - Learn what your employer will pay for and take advantage of it. For example, my employer would pay for hotel laundry on week long trips. I would only pack enough clothes for 3.5 days and have my laundry done Wednesday. This cut the amount I had to pack and I rarely did laundry at home.

    - Be very careful with “road food”. You can gain a ton of weight when you are eating out a lot. Also, many hotels have gyms, and it’s very easy to pack a pair of running shoes and put in some polypro shorts and shirt. You can rinse these in the sink, they dry quickly, and you can wear them for a few workouts.

    Good luck. The road can be a fun and exciting place, and you can get oodles of experience you would never get staying at home. Not to mention you can scope out other parts of the country (or world) and build a professional network the best way possible — by good old human interaction. After a year, you should have quite the contact list and get a decent inside look at some prospective employers — as well as have had the opportunity to meet your future co-workers and management!

  49. Jennifer says:

    Trent- you might want to check out Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL, which is an independent bookshop that often hosts authors. Many authors choose to go there over Borders, etc.

  50. socalgal says:

    Cheryl, a short sale is not for you. You have too much money in the bank & the mortgage holder would never OK taking a hit on the property while you walk away with cash left over. Either find another tenant or sell outright.

  51. SLCCOM says:

    I like to bring along small quantities of laundry detergent when I travel; the laundromat charges obscene prices for a half cup of detergent.

  52. Angel says:

    @Trent:
    This is my first time to comment. I have to say that I absoulutly love your emails and your site! It has really given me and my husband hope for our future!! So many great ideas to start with and to continue thru the years!! I just want to say THANKS for all the hard work you must put behind all of this information. I can’t wait for the book!!!

    By the way, you an AWESOME taste in music!! Anyone with Buckley and She & Him on the same play list gets a big A+!!!

  53. Tall Bill says:

    We live 20 mins away from Maria & I just drove through that area & saw many places for sale. Prices peaked in the Seattle area in early 2008 & have been on a down slide since, resulting in the worst economy that I have experienced in my 1/2 century. Walk a ways, forclosures, sort sales, etc are the way of life here at this time. We purchased in 2000 at the IT peak & are finding our home down at about what we paid, Luckily, the kids are early teens & out intent is to be right where we are until retirement in 17 or so years. With a “world economy”, price adjustments everywhere are finding a new balance & who are we to say the “American Way” is best paid when in fact we cannot compete in Math, Science, etc, etc. Our kids are getting their buts kicked by many places around the world & even Sants’a workshop has moved overseas, much to our concern. What can we develope that competes? Software is maturing, Aerospace is global, try buying American for much of anything – it’s getting hard.

  54. AmandaLP says:

    For Kristen, look into loan forgiveness programs. There are quite a few out there for lawyers and professionals. One would involve working for a “public interest agency” (such as anything in the law enforcement system, family and child welfare agencies, or almost any 501(c)3. Google College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 for more information.

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