A Spinster’s Guide to Relocating Across the Country

This post is part of the Short and Feisty Finance Series.

Three years ago this summer, I packed up my worldly goods and moved 3,000 miles west. There were only a handful of naysayers that bemoaned the cost of such a move for someone so freshly out of college (2 years at that point). Everyone else was incredibly supportive of my Oregon Trail-esque (or, really, Route 66) journey. Moving solo put another hurdle in the path to the finish line because I was working on one person’s worth of savings–which at 24 years old, wasn’t much.

I should say that what I did was not the cheapest way to do it. Hibs (the BFF I recruited for the trip) and I took about 5 days to make the journey and we stopped at several free or inexpensive tourist attractions.

If you’re rich, purchase a moving service and fly your butt out there.

I’ll share some helpful tips for anyone hoping to make the jump on a dime.

  1. PLAN. A cross-country move takes a lot of it! So my usual off-the-cuff travel plans (exhibited here and here) just weren’t going to cut it. You’ve got to have a travel route, reservations at places to stay, and a time-line for starters.
    • If you can, travel to your destination city a couple of months ahead of time. Scout potential neighborhoods to live in, connect with any people that you may know who already live there and ask their advice, troll craigslist to look for apartment price ranges. Rent a car as cheaply as possible and drive around for hours checking things out. This was hands-down the most valuable reconnaissance job.

      Photo Credit | Moveacrosscountry.net

      Photo Credit | Moveacrosscountry.net

  2. MONEY. I hadn’t saved very much money before my move. I had been working two jobs, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week but it was mostly going to my car payment, gas, student loans, and rent. The first thing I did when I resigned from my jobs was to put my student loans on deferral. I had mostly subsidized loans, so that worked in my favor as far as accruing interest.

    I then took out a personal loan from my bank for about $5k. In the end, I only used about $500 of it, so I immediately paid the $4,500 back when I got settled in LA. Now that I’m committed to living debt-free, I sometimes cringe when I remember doing this BUT it was absolutely what I needed to do at the time to start living’ the dream…or the restless sleep before the dream because sometimes this whole waiting to break-in is less dreamy than I imagined.

  3. BUDDY. Find a friend that you like to travel with and con them into doing to trip with you. Promise lots of inside jokes and fun memories because you know you can’t pay their way entirely.
  4. DESTINATION. Have a landing place in mind. For me, Hibs’ Aunt and Uncle live in Orange County and very graciously let this traveling nomad crash at their house until I could get up to Los Angeles.
  5. TRANSPORTATION. Make sure your car is road ready.
  6. PACK LIGHT. I took whatever could fit in my back seat and my trunk. In fact, there was barely any room to fit Hibs’ travel stuff (sorry, Hibs). When I got to LA and found an apartment (the same building I’m in today) I unpacked and bought a bunch of new, yet inexpensive, furniture on credit. Yes, credit. Something I don’t do anymore, but it was completely necessary! I found a store that offered free financing for the first 18 months and paid the debt off in about 14 months so no interest!

That’s it! Those are the most important things to remember. If you want to sight-see, find free or inexpensive places. If you need some on-the-road entertainment, bring an MP# player and an AUX cord or do the old fashioned thing and burn a CD. Good luck on your move!

*SIDE NOTE* My 5 year old nanny kid didn’t know what a CD was until she saw me pull one out and stick it in the CD player…

All the Single Ladies–Buying Cars

This post is part of the Short and Feisty Finance Series.

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This is an actual meme on the internet–

I’m writing this post at 8:00pm on a Monday night–after working a twelve hour shift in less than ideal conditions.

BUT STILL, I’m alive and I’m getting paid for it, so I’ll save the griping for another post and get down to why I actually opened up the laptop tonight.

Buying a car when you’re a damsel in distress strong independent lady.

So here’s the deal: I wish that I could say that salesmen aren’t biased when they see a woman shopping for a car on her own. I wish that I could say that the Toyota dealership in Santa Monica didn’t try to take advantage of me based on stereotypes and assumptions. I also wish I could say that I won the lottery this morning so I never have to work another day in my life so GOODBYE SIX YOUR OLD THAT CAN’T WIPE HIS OWN BUTT.

But if I said any of those things, I would be lying to you and then I would have to take time out of my 12-14 hour workdays to go to confession. Which actually might be nice…SO IT’S ALL TRUE.

Before I dive deeper into the topic of buying a car as a single lady, you should know that I am a firm believer in “buy used and save the difference” when it comes to automobiles. Those suckers depreciate the minute you drive them off of the lot so, unless you’re rich as hell, there’s no need to buy brand spanking new.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the market for a new car. I’d been driving a Sebring for about 4 years and I LOVED that car but knew I wanted a hybrid. Something about drinking the water in Los Angeles (sparingly drinking, there IS a 4 year drought, people) that made me want a Prius in particular. I purchased my Sebring at Carmax and was intending to go back but wanted to give a traditional dealership a chance.

BIG MISTAKE.

We’ll start with the similarities, move on to my CarMax experience (by the way, I was not paid to post this. This is just my experience), and then head to the dealership.

Similarities

  • There is a LOT of waiting–either on the front end with the traditional dealership and waiting to see what they can “offer you” or with Carmax when dealing with settling up the loan.
  • There are cars at both (ha!) but Carmax has a bigger selection from a lot of different makes and models.

Carmax

  • Walk into the door–a single salesman approaches you and tells you they can help if you need them OR you can look around the lot on your own and find them when you’d like more help.
    • Carmax has a NO HAGGLE policy–the price you see is the price EVERYONE gets, regardless of age/race/gender, etc.
  • I found the cars I liked and wanted to test drive, so the salesmen took me out in ALL of them. It had to be 5+ cars, but he was very patient and didn’t rush me.
  • When I picked my car, they didn’t attempt to dissuade me from getting it or try to get me to buy a car that I couldn’t afford. That was MY CAR. And with all of the bells and whistles, I was paying a really fair price under Kelly Blue Book value.
  • They offered me a fair trade-in value for my Sebring.
  • I could contact my bank over the phone and have the loan-junk handled that way–I already knew the price and didn’t have to wait for someone in the “back room” to crunch the numbers

Dealership

  • I walk up and several salesmen pounce–I end up with a middle aged dude with an incredibly heavy accent.
  • I tell them the model and features that I wanted in a Prius–instead, they showed me a bunch of things I didn’t ask for.
    • Things that were either well above my budget OR they showed me Prius cars with ZERO bells and whistles, cars older than the ones at Carmax with less features for $5k-$8k more than what Carmax was offering me.
  • They offered me less-than-jack-sh*t for my Sebring to trade-in (I was personally offended since I took great care of it and it was less than 6 years old).
    • When I mentioned that CarMax had offered $6,000 more for my trade in, he suggested I sell my car to Carmax and buy my Prius with them (ha!).
  • The salesman zeros in on ONE CAR he thinks will be “perfect” for me–that one without the bells and whistles but with the high price tag. It’s as if there are no other cars on the lot and he immediately goes in to “run the numbers” like I was the one that settled on that car.
  • The sales person kept taking his time and mozying to the “back room” to get the guy to see what was the “best he could do for me” which was still next to nothing.
    • The price for this used bland-mobile was MORE expensive than a brand new Prius C (a smaller version of the Prius).
    • When he came back with the numbers breakdown, there was the price of the car and then a ton of hidden fees that jacked the rate up even more.
  • When I told him several times that that wasn’t going to work for me, that the standard model of the used Prius should not be MORE expensive than its most tricked out version 2 years younger (the Carmax car), all he could say was that the dealership had better cars than the ones at Carmax and that I would be making a mistake buying from them.

NOW. Can I prove that the reason the salesman was so obtuse and underhanded with me was because I was a woman shopping for a car alone? Nope, I can’t do that. But when I saw DUDES on the lot helping other DUDES, and eavesdropped on conversations in the salesroom, I felt as if this guy was attempting to make decisions for me rather than listen to what I had to say because I was a lady. When I tried to take charge of everything, he talked down to me rather than talking WITH me.

After reading all that, I bet you can guess which one I went with–

The Dealership.

PSYCHE! I left Carmax happy with my purchase, secure knowing that I paid the same price any other person would’ve paid, and also knowing that I got a great deal on a really great car.

In summary:

  • Buy used, save the difference.
  • Go to Carmax, unless you’re really good at haggling or being obnoxiously assertive and calling chauvinists out on their bullhockey.
  • This crap happens all the time (see the above meme!) so don’t take anyone’s nonsense. Also don’t feel like you HAVE to drag your guy-pal to the dealership to be treated fairly. Either they respect you OR you don’t buy from them.
  • Do your research before you shop. Know what kind of prices you should be quoted for the make, model, year, and mileage on a car.
  • Again: Don’t take anyone’s baloney!

If Kickstarter Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It.

Hey y’all, it’s been a while.

How are you?

Are your azaleas blooming nicely?

You get that raise you wanted?

AWESOME. Glad I asked.

SO, before I continue on with my awesome Hawaiian adventure, I’m going to take a minute to insert another kind of adventure into the conversation.

CROWDFUNDING.

this is sparta kickstarter 2

And, forreal guys, this adventure is way more unpredictable than the other.

I’m helping my friend market her campaign to get her children’s picture book published.

You should definitely. Check. It. Out.

NewTeal

Here is the link to her project. 

Watch the video.

Get your heart warmed.

Then pledge.

It’s pretty much the cutest video with one of the most wonderful ideas to introduce kids to a different kind of family structure. I’m going to be pumping her project all over the internet because I truly believe in what she’s trying to accomplish.

BUT I figured I’d share a few insights into the journey, just in case you’re interested in creating a similar project:

  1. Kickstarter is “ALL OR NOTHING”: if this project doesn’t reach it’s goal, no one is charged. So there shouldn’t be any reason for people to hesitate on backing a project. Even if she doesn’t reach her goal, pledging to the project is like giving an internet “high five” and you lose nothing.
  2. The “Green Bar” effect: Kickstarter, and other sites like it, used to be about people backing projects that they believe in. Now, people aren’t inclined to donate unless they know it’s a “sure thing”, or until the little green ‘progress bar’ is filled in. Why this is? I have no idea. But most people don’t “jump on the bandwagon” until the wagon is pulling out of the corral. I think it’s because they think they’ll be charged WHEN they pledge, which we (the educated few) know is incorrect. See item #1 for further clarification.
    • That’s why it’s crucial that we reach out to friends and family (yes, you are my blogging familia!) to donate first to get the snowball effect going. We’re working on that, now.
  3. Finding one’s audience ain’t easy: I’ve sent out many emails on this project’s behalf and even helped my buddy, Angela, write her press release. Getting media onboard has been TOUGH. Many nanny agencies and a few nanny blogs have jumped on board, though, which is incredibly nice to see. But we’re still searching for those backers.

So, now I’m asking all of you in cyberspace: when you’ve watched the video and made your pledge, will you contact me and let me know if you have any media outlets out there willing to give this project some face time?

Maybe your uncle’s 3rd cousin works at your local news station.

Or maybe my blog is a ‘guilty pleasure’ read for someone who works for the New York Times.

Or maybe you have your own blog and would be willing to spread the word (if so, let me know your email address in the comments and I’ll be sure to give you more information).

Either way, holla at me! This project only has 28 more days of life, and my gal pal needs some pledges NOW.

(HERE IS THE LINK TO THE PROJECT ONE MORE TIME. CLICK IT!)

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