Decisions, Decisions

Now that I’m officially no longer a student, I have some decisions to make regarding my finances. I had been putting every penny towards paying for classes, so I could possibly avoid taking on any new student loans. Now that I don’t have to worry about tuition, I need to decide where exactly that money is going.

First off, no, I’m not going to let lifestyle inflation come in and eat up the “extra” $200 a week. But I need to start prioritizing where the money should go. One of the biggest issues is that I’m in a transitional period in my life. I’m in a serious relationship, but we haven’t decided what/when the next step will be.

One of the biggest question marks has to do with my house. There are several projects that need to be completed, each of which could become somewhat costly. I have a bathroom that needs it’s sub-floor/floor and bathtub replaced, along with other remodeling that will be necessary due to those changes. I plan to do some of the work myself, and reuse some items. I’ve priced out most things so far, and am estimating the whole project should run less than $3,000.  I also need to replace the missing roof on my porch. It originally had a large aluminum awning, which was damaged in a hail storm last year. I had planned to replace it along with the siding, but my contractor and I weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye. The whole thing turned into a terrible situation, complete with legal threats and the involvement of the BBB (which was absolutely no help). In the end, I have a completed siding job that was not done the way we had agreed, and no cover on the porch. I need to decide if I’m going to put another aluminum awning over the porch ($800-2,000 depending on selections made), or build an actual roof over the porch (~$5,000).

The questions that are putting these projects in limbo: How long will I be living in the house? And will I be selling or renting the house once I move?

The bathroom project is an immediate must if I plan to rent or sell anytime soon. If I continue living there, it’s not an immediate concern. I’m not home that much, so the bathroom isn’t getting much use. The damage isn’t going to grow, so it can wait if it’s just me. On the porch, if I was staying long-term, I would probably replace the railing around the porch with a nice vinyl “deck-height” railing, and then eventually replace the posts and build a true roof over the porch. It would make the house look nicer, which would make me happier. But, given my area and housing values, it wouldn’t do anything to increase the property value or utility of the house. So, if I was going to rent or sell, I’d probably just go with replacing the railings and the aluminum awning.

There are also other things that are important to me financially right now. I’d like to have an emergency fund in place. I’d like to pay off my one remaining student loan. At some point in the near future, I’d like to start investing (outside my 401k).

My thoughts right now are to loosely prioritize, but keep things flexible. I have an account at PNC that allows me create savings categories with goal amounts. So, I’ve setup a category for each item, and am knocking them out one at a time. Right now, I’ve prioritized as though I will be staying in the house for at least a year. So, I’ve put money into a category for a porch railing, am working towards my emergency fund, then plan to save towards the bathroom. From there, it will be the student loan, and then the porch roof. But I’m trying to leave the money somewhat fluid for now, in case something changes and I need to switch courses.

That’s basically been my overall strategy the last year or so: Make a plan, but be flexible in order to take advantage of new opportunities. You never know what might be around the corner!

What do you think of my plan? Would you prioritize differently?

– Ms. W


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