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Archive for May, 2014

Checked out the neighborhood

May 21st, 2014 at 09:25 pm

Assuming that vandwelling is no longer an option, what other options do I have? With this question in mind, I decided to check out the places for rent and for sale in the area that is close to my work place (because, really, if I have to settle for some place, it might as well shorten my commute).

But before I get into that, let me just say that of the three Android apps I tried-- Zillow, Realtor, and Trulia-- I liked Trulia the best. Zillow acted a bit buggy and sometimes won't let me select certain places, while showing me other places that are already sold. Realtor only showed me expensive houses in the area for some reason. Trulia had the mix of selection and reliability that I was looking for between the three. I digress.

Rent in the area starts out at $800 a month, which to me is way too high for just renting some place.

I also looked at plots of land that may be available, so perhaps I can build something cheap but nice on it. Land in the area is about $35k, which seemed pricey, but would be worthwhile if it was in a area. As it turns out, it was anywhere but a good area. In fact, I knew I was in trouble when I realized it ran near the drug neighborhoods, with faint graffiti and lots of broken glass bottles on the street that I had to drive around. Sooo yeah, that's out too.

Moving up, the closest condos are outside the my search area, and they are mostly college housings. These places are really packed and are generally noisy. Price is decent though, starting at $30k for one of those one bedroom one bath places for college students.

Unfortunately, the best choice available is a house at a nearby semi-decent neighborhood. Unfortunate because prices for these actual townhouses and houses start at $140k... which is exactly what I was hoping to avoid in the first place.

At this point, I am still not sure how I should handle this, but at least I have a better idea of what I am working with. What do you think?

Let's talk tiny house

May 18th, 2014 at 12:26 am

In a previous entry, kiki commented on the following:

"How about building on of those small houses built on trailers? They can be done for much less than 20k, would be built to your specifications, can be permanent or moved, provide water, showering, toilet, kitchen, living and sleeping spaces. I think they are great."

Funny you should mention that because guess what I've been looking at? Actually, I've been staring at tiny houses for a while now. I've even gone so far as to meet up in one of those local tiny house enthusiast groups.

I mean, if I can't vandwell, I was thinking this would be my next step up as a possible option. There are also companies nearby that cater to exactly this sort of market. Here's one nearby that I like. I just love all those beautiful wood details!

As for cost, a good one that is pre-built is more like $40k, but that's still pretty affordable for a place to live.

Uhhhhhhh, I've also been looking into underground bunkers and storm shelters. That's a bit more specialized, but is fairly affordable as well....

Know when to fold

May 16th, 2014 at 10:39 pm

I've been thinking a lot since I've went to the dealership and stepped into the cargo van that I wanted to get. It's... small. I've mentioned this before, but now I am thinking that perhaps it is TOO small. I simply can not fit everything I want into a 3' x 7'....

So, at this point, I have basically two choices: Considering a bigger cargo van that is less stealthier, or considering sticking with a conventional dwelling like maybe a condo.

I can't risk putting all my faith into a less stealthy vehicle... I simply do not want to put all the money and energy into it only to have my employer decide that we can no longer do that....

The alternative is the much more expensive route of getting a condo/duplex/townhouse somewhere. I don't like paying for this route, but the upside is that I retain all the advantages that come with having such a dwelling.

So, at this point, I am not sure what to do. The only thing I can think of is to keep sleeping on it. I am still fine where I am, although to be honest, I am itching to move out. I want to finally move to having my own place to call home, but I am not sure where that would be.

I guess I will have to keep looking, but for now, I may have to give up the idea on vandwelling....

Preliminaries

May 11th, 2014 at 03:55 pm

First and foremost, Happy Mother's Day to all you hard-working moms out there!

So I had a chance to go out of the car dealership and take a look at the vehicle I am interested in, and I have to say the space feels much smaller than I anticipated. The vehicle I have in mind is capable of hauling 4' x 8' plywood panels with the doors close. As far as cargo vans go, that is fairly impressive. However, as I sat in there, the space feels much more restrictive than I imagined.

To make things worse, the interior needs to be insulated as well, and the insulation I have in mind will effectively shave off another precious feet off from the total length, width, and height.

With some hesitation, I say I can still make it work. I just have to be extremely clever about using all the possible nook and cranny that is available to me.

In the meantime, I've sectioned off a 3' x 7' space on the carpet with duct tape to get a better feel of what the layout should look like... and I admit this looks like somewhere between madness and not-gonna-happen. It's literally just enough space for a twin sized mattress.

Maybe this is too crazy to work....

Unquantifiable

May 6th, 2014 at 08:07 pm

This isn't directly related to PF in itself, but it'll also make sense why in a minute.

When thinking about vandwelling, the numbers completely make sense. There is no rent or mortgage. There is no homeowners insurance. No property tax. No HoA fees and regulations.

Certainly, there are vehicle-associated costs, but they are usually ones you would normally incur from just having any regular vehicle. Well, maybe a bit more, but the cost savings are still a no-brainer.

The real downsides are more psychological and social. For example, full-time vandwellers can pretty much forget most social and dating scenes because even voluntarily choosing to live in a van down by the proverbial river still carries a lot of negative social stigma. The loneliness can be hard to bear, and heaven help you if you are also claustrophobic.

The unquantifiable variables are what really gets you. I also realize that this level of living is most likely below the standards of even many here at SA.

That's also why I can't quite get as excited about this prospect, even though this is what I am ultimately choosing to do. I am fairly confident it is physically doable. I just have to get over that hump in my mind that perhaps I am resigningmy fate to something worse or less human somehow.

Then again, I am living well in a fairly big house right now, and in a great neighborhood. Everybody else in the neighborhood thinks I am well-off somehow. And yet, I already feel the loneliness, the resignation of my fate, and so forth. So, me making this choice to experiment with vandwelling may not be as bad as I imagined.

And it is only an experiment. I don't know if it will actually work out. I don't know how far I will be able to take this. There are lots of unknowns.

Luckily, the small kid in me thinks this awesome, like some kind of goofy summer camp adventure that I am going on. I am going to hang on to that part, because there's nothing to be gained by simply dreading it. Plus, it will also push me out of my comfort zone, and towards something that I hope will actually better my life in some way. The same way it got me here on SA in the first place.

I hear you like closets

May 6th, 2014 at 01:08 am

I guess if there is one thing I am known for around these parts, it would be my experiences with living in a closet. It certainly has exceeded my wildest expectations in terms of not just the execution, but also with the reception around here (and surprisingly positive ones at that).

However, have I actually shared pictures of my closet set up? I can't remember. Since you guys liked it so much, I decided to dig around and find a couple of pics for you to gawk at.

But before I share them, I just want to clarify that I actually extended it all the way out to my master bathroom... because I wanted an all-inclusive space that I could use my room AC and heater on. This means I could also shower, go to the bathroom, and so forth, without having to freeze or burn my butt off because the rest of the house is not typically climate controlled. That and I had to go through the master bathroom to get to the closet anyways, soooo, with that crazy idea in mind, here's the first picture:



Here, you can see my simple desk and laptop setup. At the time, I covered up the other master bathroom sink for more space for the second monitor, but I eventually removed that monitor as I didn't really need it and it was just generating extra heat. I mean it was useful for my stock trading and some video games, but I could live without it.

Behind the desk and laptop is the master bath that I never used. Instead, I placed my room AC and palm tree in there. Normally, when I run the AC, it creates waste water that would drain into a bin that I would periodically have to pick up and dump into the bathroom. However, with this setup, the water drained straight down the tube and into the tub's drain. Life couldn't be simpler.

I had a similar system going with the palm tree where any excess water simply drained down the tub, but I eventually learned that the leeched out dirt also made a mess I had to clean from time to time. Eventually, I just placed a drain pan under it and that solved that.



Here, you can actually see a small part of my closet setup, with my twin sized mattress taking up nearly all of the floor space inside.

Included in the pic is the "winter setup", where I had shower curtain rods going across the closet wall so I can prop up a heavy comforter like some kind of tent. The little kid in me looooved this, but the passive heating it provided also proved extremely effective. So much so that, I did not even have my room heater on for half the winter here. Bonus points that I didn't have to look at the clothes that were hanging right above me.

Well, I also had a sleeping bag in there, which is not shown in the picture. Sleeping bags are extremely effective at keeping me warm. In fact, it proved too much on the some of the warmer winter nights; the comforter tent alone was enough.

Also not shown is the small flashlight and a rig to hang my tablet inside one of the shower curtain rods that I used to surf the net or watch Netflix. I eventually stopped using the rig because I kept knocking my tablet off and have it hit my face. I should be sleeping anyways.

By now, you may be also wondering about why all the house plants. When you're in a confined space like this for an extended period of time, you start to believe that you may be hard of breathing, perhaps from a lack of oxygen. It's possible my mind was playing tricks on me as well, but I thought air quality was an entirely valid issue to look into.

So, I scoured the internet looking for more information, and came across some study from India about air quality and urban planning. According to that study, if you can get a certain number of hardy houseplants per person, you can completely recycle your own air 24/7. I decided to experiment with that as well, and the result is what you see in these pictures.

Now, even though this isn't the prettiest setup possible, I still think the result was stunning in terms of not just effectiveness, but also to some degree, aesthetics. I mean, I have always liked plants to begin with, and have you ever smelled Mother-in-laws at night? They have this amazing, subtle, sweet scent. And when I wake up, the light would shine past my palm, casting this amazing shadow on the wall, swaying from the window air or from my AC running. Big Grin

Last but not least, how could I post something like this without talking about some numbers? In the years before this, when I ran central heating and cooling, I was able to push down the average monthly price of electricity and gas to around, let's say from $200 a month to $100 a month. Now, for a 1200 square foot house, I think $100 a month is really quite good. However, when I went from central HVAC to the closet setup and using only my room AC and heater, the average monthly plummeted again from $100 a month to $50 a month. And that's also with me not caring about how much room AC and heating I wanted to use. I suppose I could push it down even more to perhaps $40 a month, but I just didn't want to sacrifice that much discomfort. All-in-all, the experiment worked out so well, I started to live like this year round without thinking twice.

And I would have continued to do so, except of course, I am now making plans to take all of the lessons I've learned here, and apply it into a living space that also happens to be mobile. Unlike the closet, which even though it sounds like such a quirky idea, I always knew it would work. Why wouldn't it? However, with a cargo van... there are some legitimately difficult challenges that needs to be surmounted here. Still, I am confident that I can make something work. I've seen others pull it off, and I am hoping to do the same.

Let's talk about some normal stuff

May 5th, 2014 at 12:08 am

I don't know why I am drawn to crazy ideas. If nothing else, I suppose it's fun and exciting to work on an amusing challenge, and see if I could actually make it work. For now though, there are also normal finance stuff that I still need to handle.

For example, although I wear contacts most of the time, I still wear glasses on occasion, especially when at home, and now, I've finally lost my glasses. Yes.. I actually lost it. No idea where it went. How do you lose a glass you say? I don't know but apparently I succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. Goody....

They were getting out of date anyways, so I dusted off my prescription (which luckily hasn't expired yet) and ordered me a couple more from zennioptical.com. They make decent glasses, and I get to give Luxxotica the financial Up Yours at the same time.

I am in the process to finally do some credit card transitions, but obviously, this won't happen until AFTER I get my car replaced. I clearly would not want to risk any bumps on my credit before then, but hopefully before the end of the year, I can replace all my credit cards with a rewards credit card from my investment company, so all my accounts can sit and update neatly on my account and phone app. One card to rule them all.

Uh, so with all the Car fiasco I mean planning, I guess I finally figured out what I want to do with the rest of my Amazon money (that, once again, I deposited there to get the 5% bonus for my tax money). Believe it or not, but I had $1200+ in there at one point, but it's amazing how easy it is to fritter it away on odds and ends that I've been putting off for nearly a year. Still, there's enough in there to cover quite a bit of whatever upgrade expenses I may come up with for the new car soooo that's good I guess.

There's nothing I can do about this, but I just want to rant yet again about how dumb it is that our state will not allow us any withholdings now on our state tax. You're welcome, NC. You're welcome for your free personal loan that I have to mandatorily give out.

To add insult to injury, my employer makes a 5% mandatory contribution to my 401(k) on my behalf. There's no match and I don't even like the company that's managing it.

I guess I can't really complain though. I mean, if that's the extent of my financial troubles right now, I really do have it made. Cashflow is still positive. Net worth is still slowly but surely going up. I am still living well, and I even get to splurge once in a while.

Sooo yeah, life is good.

The morning after

May 2nd, 2014 at 08:38 pm

You ever say or do something and think it was such a great idea the night before, but the morning after, you wake up and think to yourself, "What was I thinking?!" Well, that's what I am thinking about me posting my previous post here.

As always, my mouth precedes my actions, and my foot clearly enjoys being stuffed in said mouth. That is not to say that I am not going to attempt to live in a car. However, there is a reasonable and natural progression of baby steps that should be taken to get there.

For instance, I still plan on getting a cargo van. However, once I get it, I am going to focus on using it for its original design first, which is to carry all the necessary work-related cargo items. They are scattered all about the house and in my current car. It would be wise to organize them all together into an one easy, accessible place, and bring it all with me in the cargo van.

After that, I need to get a feel of the interior dimensions of the vehicle. True, I already know what the numbers are in terms of square feet that I will be working with, but I hear that you just don't really know how something will be like until you step inside it yourself.

After that, maybe I can try to camp out of it overnight or something, while parked at the house. See what kind of minor details that needs to be addressed as it comes up. And if all else fails, I'll just go back inside the house. Big Grin

So on and so forth. Even if the experiment fails, I still need a vehicle for work, and the cargo van I have in mind will still serve handily for just about any task I have in mind (including any future DIY projects).

Soooo it's not totally crazy, even though my goal is certainly pretty crazy. Don't worry though. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures along the way for you guys to gawk and laugh at hahahah.

BONUS: Here's something humorous I found elsewhere.

40

May 2nd, 2014 at 12:08 am

This is the kind of post I somehow dread making, but here goes anyway. Some of you may or may not remember me, but while I have been horribly absent, I never really left. I just prefer to keep things low key seeing as how I was fairly certain people who are related to my ex were tracking me here, and as some of you regulars might recall, I was going through a fairly messy divorce and aftermath at the time.

So, I made a new identity here and assumed a quieter life, though once again, I also confess that I have not been as frugal or active here as I could have been either. So, in a way, it was an "easy" way out in more than one sense of the word.

However, as I approach 40 years of age.... Ugh, I hate saying that, but I have to face that I am just not as young as I used to be anymore, I am also about to embark on a new chapter of my life. One that can not directly link me to my other identity, as one of my co-workers found out about it, and uh, what I am about to do will have quite a lot to do with work....

So as I pondered creating yet another identity, I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous. Stop cluttering the blogs with your paranoid whackiness." Soo, that's why I am back to blogging here, under my original name, because I would think it's fairly safe by now to "recycle" this account instead.

So let me stop beating around the bush and say what I have in mind and why I am "back". For my 40th birthday, my parents have pledged to pitch in and help me buy a car to replace my current beater. I don't know why they are being so generous to me, but they are. I am forever grateful to my parents for this and all that they have done for me in the past. They have also stated that this will be the last time they will be helping me out with anything monetarily, and I understand completely. Knowing the value of this opportunity, I do not want to squander it.

Forty is supposedly when your car insurance drops even further, and as of this point, I am still single and will probably be so into the foreseeable future.

Add it all up, and I am 90% certain that I will finally make my move towards buying a vehicle to DIY into a mobile living space... as soon as some time this month. Bypass the entire deal with rent or mortgage. Just go cheap and be a vandweller.

Now, even amongst the frugal community, vandwellers don't exactly get the kind of support and understanding they may deserve, especially with those who do this voluntarily. Still, it makes sense for me to do this. My job simply does not allow tardiness. At all. (I work in a jail.) Even when there is severe inclement weather, I still have to be here to relieve the other shift, even if it means that I never leave in the first place.

Something else to consider is the fact that, earlier in April, a co-worker of mine wrecked his car and ended up in a hospital simply because he fell asleep. He broke his ankle, his rib cage, his nose, and shattered his knee when he front-ended a tree and the engine block landed in his lap.

The hours can be painfully long here sometimes. I surprised myself when I realized that I worked 122+ hours the last couple of weeks. And what's scary is that I know some have worked even more than that.

The solution here is easy as well, though is far from palatable: Simply don't leave work. Sure, the work place has about as much accommodations as any other office building, but it still beats wrapping my car around a tree.

And that's when my 2-watt lightbulb went off again. I thought, well, what if I just set up my next car so I can sleep in it? On top of all of these other reasons, I might also be able bypass any future rent and mortgage this way. And I will still be able to stay here if work or mother nature dictates that I not leave. It has happened before, and it will probably happen again. I can set up my vehicle to be as comfortable as my current bedroom, maybe more, AND I should be able to do it all with $20k or less.

In fact, the workplace here already has a free gym, and free showers, as well as free usage of bathrooms, 24/7. For vandwellers, this is something they grudgingly pay for with gym memberships, but I get it for free.

The downside is that the workplace does not have a set policy about people sleeping in their cars. I assume that management doesn't have an overwhelming issue with it, but once again, this is something I want to keep as low key as possible just to be on the safe side. Good or bad, a lot of my own money will be riding on this to work.

But at the same time, it's not a huge amount. In fact, it's well within the cost of even a regular car. So, it's not something I can't easily recover from if it doesn't work out. I will also be experimenting and easing into this slowly.

So that is why I am back. As BA. I'm getting old, but still just about as crazy, and I'm about to embark on my next misadventure in my life. Good or bad, feel free to come along for the ride, and maybe we can share a few good laughs about it along the way.