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‘I Worked Five Jobs To Afford My First Home’: Was It Worth It?

July 7, 2020

afford a home

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I never thought I would buy a house at 25. Like most 20-somethings, I was pushing through school, working odd jobs, and just trying to get by.

Then, after a death in the family, I came into a little money. It wasn’t a fortune or a happy occasion, but it was an opportunity to do something good with this cash. I realized it might cover a down payment on a small condo. The idea of becoming a homeowner was exciting, so I started shopping for real estate in the suburbs of L.A. where I was renting an apartment.

In spring 2016, I found a small, one-bedroom condo that I loved. My inheritance would easily cover the down payment, and the mortgage payments would be only a little more than the rent I was paying. I made an offer, and it was accepted.

afford a home
I bought my first condo at 25.

Jillian Pretzel

At the time, I had a full-time sales job at a natural food company, plus a side hustle working as a host at Disneyland. With steady income and the down payment taken care of, I knew I could easily swing the monthly costs of owning a home.

But being a homeowner proved to be much harder than I imagined. After a few miscalculated costs, I found myself running out of money. I had to take on another side job. And another, and then another.

Ultimately, I had to work five jobs simultaneously to afford my home. Here are the hard lessons I learned that I hope will help you avoid the same fate.

afford a home
My side hustle was being a host at Disneyland.

Jillian Pretzel

It’s not just about the mortgage

I’d heard plenty of horror stories of friends who, after buying a house and moving in, realized they didn’t have enough money to buy anything else, from furniture to cable service.

So when calculating whether I could handle homeownership, I was careful to look beyond my mortgage. I also factored in HOA fees, property taxes, maintenance, moving costs, utilities, and even new furniture.

But I’d underestimated one massive money drain: home maintenance and repairs.

afford a home
Me working my sales job at a natural food convention after a long day of walking around

Jillian Pretzel

While it’s simple to factor in a set HOA fee or estimate a monthly electric bill, maintenance costs are hard to plan for. You could find yourself spending money on nothing but paint and Drano one year, then the next find yourself needing to replace a dead refrigerator and reshingle the roof.

A year after moving in, I learned my water heater had started leaking while I was away for the weekend. By the time I’d returned home and saw the mess, I learned that I’d need to test for mold, install a new floor, repair the walls, and replace my water heater.

The total cost: over $10,000.

My home insurance would not cover this, arguing that the water heater leak had been ongoing and that I’d been negligent. I’d have to pay for this out of pocket.

This immediately threw a giant wrench in my budget. Clearly, I was in over my head.

One or two jobs may not be enough

I already had a full-time job and a side hustle. But I knew I couldn’t yet negotiate a pay raise at my sales job and I wasn’t going to get more hours at the theme park. So, I started looking for a third job.

I applied at local shops and restaurants. I felt a bit silly, as a homeowner in my mid-20s applying for the same jobs I had in high school. But I had bills to pay, and I took the first job I was offered: working nights at a movie theater.

afford a home
Job No. 3 was at this movie theater.

Jillian Pretzel

About the same time, I got a fourth job, tutoring a college student once a week. Job No. 5 came when I was asked to write for a small dating and relationship website.

I was tired from working all the time, but I was able to starting paying off the bills that were rolling in.

Don’t be afraid to borrow money

I knew I couldn’t handle working 80-hour weeks forever. After a few months, I was exhausted.

afford a home
My bedroom—a room I didn’t see much while working five jobs

Jillian Pretzel

I was managing to stay afloat, but I worried about getting sick and falling behind. To keep my sanity, I needed to borrow money and give myself a buffer.

It took me a while to reach this decision—after all, it seemed irresponsible for someone who already had a hefty mortgage to borrow some more. But borrowing was better than skipping mortgage payments—and potentially losing my condo.

In the end, I was fortunate to be able to borrow money from my mom, but bank loans can be just as helpful for those without the option of borrowing from family.

After a long spring and summer of working in the movie theater, I was able to quit and focus more on my sales job. Soon after, my tutoring client was back on track with school and didn’t need my help anymore.

By fall, I was still doing my writing gig and working at the theme park, in addition to my sales job. They were still a lot to juggle, but I felt that I could handle the workload. I was paying my bills, and saving a good amount.

By the time I got back on track, I’d learned a valuable lesson: The costs of being a homeowner can’t always be calculated, and surprises are bound to pop up.

But was it worth it? Absolutely.

afford a home
Me in my home office, working as a freelance writer

Jillian Pretzel

The post ‘I Worked Five Jobs To Afford My First Home’: Was It Worth It? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Is COVID-19 Costing You Cash at Home? 7 Hidden Expenses of Self-Isolating During the Pandemic

April 24, 2020

Coronavirus Is Costing You Cash at Home: 7 Hidden Expenses of Self-Isolating

Yuttachai Saechan/Getty Images;

Those who are fortunate enough to still be collecting a paycheck while quarantined or sheltering in place might expect to build up some serious savings. While you work from home, you’re avoiding your usual commuting expenses, and you’re probably saving money by not going to bars, restaurants, and movies, or skipping that vacation to Fiji.

But as spending decreases in some areas during self-isolation, it can creep up in others. To brace yourself and your budget, keep an eye on these expenses while you’re self-isolating at home.

1. Utilities

If you’ve gone from office life to Zoom life, you’re spending more time at home than usual, which could ramp up your household expenses.

“Your utility spending might be considerably higher if you’re spending more time at home cooking, charging devices, using lights and appliances,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at

To keep your utility bills down, turn off lights when you leave the room, open windows during the day to let in cool air, unplug devices that you’re not using, and consider turning down your water heater by a few degrees.

2. Groceries

Grocery delivery

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Even if you’re not hoarding (and you shouldn’t be), you might find yourself spending more on groceries while you shelter in place.

For some people, an uptick in grocery spending will be offset by the money saved from not dining at restaurants. But if your local store is picked over—or if you pay fees for grocery delivery—you could spend more on groceries than usual.

“I’ve been to a local grocery store, and the only thing that was available was organic, so I couldn’t buy the generic. I actually had to spend more money,” says Steve Repak, author of the “6 Week Money Challenge for Your Personal Finances.”

If your grocery spending feels out of hand, be flexible and creative with your menu. Cook the food you already have at home before you head back to the store. Sites such as Eater have compiled resources for home cooks, including Pantry Cooking 101 and How to Stock a Pantry.

If you’re using a delivery service, place infrequent, larger orders instead of several small orders. Or consider curbside service; many stores are allowing free pickups where they bring your groceries right to your car, so you can save on delivery fees and tips.

3. Meal delivery and takeout

You may not be able to enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant, but you can order takeout and delivery—and those indulgences can add up quickly. After all, it’s not just the meal you’re paying for.

“There’s probably still a service fee, and on top of that you have to leave a gratuity,” Repak says. (It’s also a good idea to generously tip the workers who are delivering your food in these times.)

If you’re on a budget, reserve takeout and delivery for special occasions or those days when you just can’t muster the motivation to cook.

4. Alcohol and other sources of comfort

Curl up with a good bottle…

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If you find yourself decompressing with a glass or two (or three) of wine every night, your drinking habit could do a number on your budget. And you wouldn’t be alone—alcohol consumption has shot up nationwide, and in states where recreational marijuana is legal, dispensaries are reporting booming business.

“Social isolation is really strongly linked to physical and mental health problems, and the way we cope with a lot of them is by drinking more,” Repak says. “People are going to smoke more and drink more … and we need to find other healthier coping mechanisms to offset that additional spending.”

You may not want to totally forfeit your evening glass of pinot, but you can make your supply last longer by sipping a mug of (far more affordable) chamomile tea on occasion, or opting for a calming yoga video or breathing exercise.

5. Subscriptions

You’ve rewatched all your favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu—so, now’s the time to add a Disney+ subscription, right?

Not so fast, Repak says.

“Save a little bit of money by just picking one of the streaming services,” he suggests, or at least don’t pile on new subscriptions to the ones you already have.

To free up your budget, take inventory of your other monthly subscriptions, services, and other recurring expenses, and see if there’s anything that can be eliminated.

“Ten dollars a month may not sound like a lot, but if you have five of those, that’s $600 annually,” Rossman adds.

6. Online shopping

Online shopping knows no quarantine

Poike/Getty Images

If you turn to retail therapy to soothe your soul, your budget could take a hit. True, many retailers are offering deep discounts in order to move merchandise, but even discount purchases add up.

“Impulse buying is a potential trap,” Rossman says. “Some people fall victim to it more than others.”

Instead of clicking “add to cart” as a coping mechanism, Repak suggests cleaning out your closet instead.

“This is a great time that we can offset our budget by decluttering our house or apartment,” he says.

Use sites like Poshmark to sell your clothes, or Mercari for your household items. Many donation centers such as Goodwill are still accepting donations, too—just call ahead to make sure your local store or donation drop-off location will take your items.

7. New hobbies you’re trying in quarantine

Our spending habits are highly personal, and you might find yourself throwing money at a new habit or hobby to fight cabin fever.

“It’s a worthwhile exercise to track your spending, especially now that so much is different,” Rossman says. “Look through your credit card and bank statements from the past month. Do you see anything surprising? Are there areas where you spent extra but didn’t feel it was worth it? These could be good ways to cut back.”

And remember: Even if quarantine has eliminated some of your old day-to-day expenses, it’s easy to overestimate how much you’re saving.

“Most people don’t have a great handle on their budget and spending habits anyway, and so much has changed of late,” Rossman says. “It’s easy to overlook things.”

The post Is COVID-19 Costing You Cash at Home? 7 Hidden Expenses of Self-Isolating During the Pandemic appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.