How far are you willing to go to save money?

There are tons of blogs out there that give advice on how to save money. With some noted exceptions, the advice is sometimes the same. Cut out cable, don’t buy Starbucks, and eating out is for rich people. This is good advice! No one really needs TV (although, I’m totally going to watch Netflix later). Making my own coffee is easier on the wallet, and probably less sugar-y. But to be completely honest, I’m probably too lazy to cut out restaurants completely. I hate cooking, and I love food.

For me, it’s easy to listen to advice like this, but much harder to implement. To make things worse, when I actively TRY to do what I am supposed to like cutting back on restaurants, I see a positive change in my bank account but its SMALL! I am not a patient person. I like to see quick results. Otherwise, whatever I’m doing feels like a waste of time.

Which leads me to my question…What are you willing to do to save money or cut back on spending? I’m not talking illegal stuff here, but more dramatic changes for dramatic results. Something that is faster than just cutting back on coffee to save a couple of bucks a day… Something maybe a little crazy….

Mr. Cents and I have been thinking about this. We talk about our debt, and what we could do to get rid of it. There are multiple potential plans of actions, but, for the most part, we always come back to our house.

When we moved to Texas, we bought a really nice place. The housing prices here were so amazingly cheap compared to the east coast, and due to moving constraints, we needed a house very quickly. Renting proved to be difficult so we bought a brand new house in a new development. To be honest, we should have bought something smaller. Now, we have a much better idea of the area and are considering moving out.

One of the ideas we have it to purchase a couple of acres outside of town and put an RV or a trailer on it. Maybe even a tiny house! Property is cheap here, and there are some tax benefits to owning property outside of the city limits. Plus, reducing the size of our house will reduce all of our house related expenses like electric and water.

Serendipitously, this post was added to a blog I started following recently, Making Sense of Cents. I don’t remember how I found them but I’m pretty sure I saw them on Twitter. This couple travels around the US in an RV, and in this particular post, they interviewed another couple who was doing the same thing. Oh man! People have actually done something similar, and it worked. This might be a legit idea!

The biggest constraint on this is all of our crap. We have a lot of stuff. SOOO MUCH STUFF. I never notice it until we move or we come up with hair-brained schemes like this. We would have to dramatically downsize. The thought is both terrifying and liberating. Even if we decide the RV idea isn’t feasible, just getting rid of all of the clutter could earn us some extra side cash and could open up opportunities to just downsize our house.

Is this something that we should actually consider? Is living in an RV or trailer even doable? How far are you willing to go to save money and pay off debt?

That one time the mortgage company didn’t pay my property taxes…..

It started like this…

A couple of weeks ago, I came back from a trip. My husband had plopped the mail down on the couch, so I sat down and started going through it. A bright pink postcard immediately caught my attention so I picked it up. “We have still not received your property taxes! Please pay immediately to avoid further fees!” I logged into my county’s tax site and sure enough…my property taxes were 3 months past due and had gained some pretty hefty late fees.

Hmmmm…Weird.

Next, I logged into my mortgage account and started going through the documentation. Escrow was paid every month like normal. I had a receipt in my account saying property taxes were paid.

Enjoying a latte with no idea that my property taxes are delinquent.

I started going through all of the transactions in and out of my escrow account to see how much our mortgage company paid in taxes. There were some serious discrepancies. The amount they actually paid was thousands less than it should have been. In fact, it looked like the county sent the refunded the tiny amount that they HAD paid. Awesome.

So I called the Mortgage Company…

The Nice Man at the Mortgage Company assured me that yes, my taxes were paid in full and that he would have his team investigate why the county/city tax office was saying they hadn’t received any money yet. “One more thing,” he said as I was about to hang up. “I see that you are about to receive a large check in the mail for overpayment into the escrow account. Please don’t do anything with it until we get this sorted out.”

Trust me ma’am. Everything is fine!

“Ok. How large are we talkin here?”

He quoted me the EXACT AMOUNT of money I paid into escrow for all of 2016 and then some extra. Naturally, I was shocked. I calmly told the Nice Man that had to be wrong and explained why. Our conversation went south fast.

“We’ll have to call you back. Someone will call you back”. He couldn’t not wait to get off the phone and practically hung up on me (seriously).

Stack of Benjamins that apparently didn’t get paid towards my taxes.

Hmmmm….Not cool.

I called back again the next day to follow up on the “investigation”, and finally talked to someone who wasn’t so eager to get off of the phone. He agreed that something definitely was wrong and that they would investigate. I also double checked to make sure that Mortgage Company would pay for any late fees that had accumulated in 3 months. He assured me that they would be responsible.

Finally, after two weeks, my Mortgage Company admitted they were at fault and quickly paid my taxes. They also paid all of the delinquent fees out of their pocket and apologized for their serious error. Apparently, they had calculated the correct taxes originally, but their software somehow sourced the wrong plot of land. (Why is it always the computer’s fault?)

Is this normal?

Since this has never happened to me before, I called someone I trust who is familiar with the banking industry. They told me that this kind of thing does happen, but that there are lines in my HUD-1 that states that the lender is required by RESPA to apply or pay your property taxes on time. I checked my closing docs and found the line that they were referring to.

Checking the fine print

Fortunately, in my case, things were fixed quickly. My Mortgage company admitted fault, and I was not held liable for any damages. Things could have been a lot worse.

If your mortgage company doesn’t pay your taxes, they could get in trouble. So could you. Here is an article written about steps you can take to get any property tax issues fixed. According to credit.com, I probably should have handled this situation by getting things in writing and not over the phone. Things to note for the future…

Lessons learned…

While I’m glad that everything is fixed, I’m a little wigged out by all of this. This is a major banking institution that messed up….Most people have heard of them and I considered them a safe bet. But their screw-up could have really caused some serious problems (like a lien on my house!).

Lady checking up on her mortgage company after reading this post.

This is just one example of why you should alway watch your accounts. No one from the Mortgage Company even realized they had made a serious mistake. I should have paid attention to the amounts taken out of my escrow account and questioned why they were so low. I should have gone to the county’s tax website to make sure that my taxes were paid. Now I know….

Has your mortgage company ever screwed up your property taxes?

Why moving to Texas was an awesome idea

SPRING!

Today is glorious. I’m sitting in my living room with all of the windows open. The fresh air is rolling in, and the birds are chirping outside.

Spring is my favorite time of the year. Its nice and sunny out, but temperatures haven’t sky-rocketed. Texas springs start earlier in the year so the blue bonnets have already started to bloom…. All while my east coast friends were talking about the snow they got a couple of weeks ago.

Feels amazing outside right now. My tune will change in August.

 

Why we moved…

We’ve been in Texas for a little over a year now. I miss my friends and my family a lot, but we moved to Texas with a purpose. We wanted to lower our cost of living so we could pay off debt faster. I had job opportunities in different states, but we decided that Texas was the place for us. Here are a few of the reasons why moving to Texas was such an awesome idea:

  • We lowered our taxes. Texas is one of the few states that doesn’t have any state income tax so we save thousands of dollars a year on income taxes alone. Our property tax is technically higher than our east coast state, but the properties aren’t worth as much here so we broke even on property tax.

  • Housing is cheaper. The house we bought here was significantly cheaper than an equivalent home on the east coast. I’m not sure about the numbers, but I do know that our current home was around 40% cheaper than our last home. We SHOULD have purchased a smaller/cheaper home in Texas to be honest. They do exist! Our original plan was to rent for a while to give us time to shop around, but we found the rental market to be competitive and more expensive than buying.
  • Utilities are CHEAP! Part of this is because utilities are just cheaper here  …Part of this is because our home is well insulated. Regardless, even in the stupid hot temperatures of a Texas summer, our electric bill is a quarter of what it was before we moved.

Just a couple of Cons…

A couple of our expenses have increased. We spend more money on gas. We both commute to work so we spend a lot more time in our cars. Gas is cheaper here, but not enough to offset the increase in driving. This is something that we would like to change in the future. We also pay for water here (our last home had well water). Still, both of these costs are small compared to the overall decrease in our monthly expenses.

Still happy with our decision

At the end of the day, I’m happy we moved. My rough estimate is that we’ve saved about $1000-$1400 a month by lowering our cost of living. Now, I get that moving to a new state may not be feasible for everyone for many reasons. But for us, this move was perfect. So far, we’ve paid off one car and are about to pay off the second. The student loans are next.

How about you? Would you consider moving to a new state to pay off debt faster?