Planning Poor Does Graduate School

In 2008, during my last year of undergrad, my aunt Deena and I were on the phone discussing finding a first job and whether going to graduate school was important. I don’t remember the specifics, but one thing she said that has stuck with me all these years was, “It’s so much harder to go back.” In other words, go to graduate school right after college, because it only gets harder to do so the further you get from that moment.

And while the rest of my friends were indeed going to graduate school right after college (in part because the recession had sucked away any jobs they might have applied to), I just didn’t think this was the best choice for me. I understood that going to graduate school just for the sake of going to graduate school was a poor financial decision. If I were ever going to get a Master’s degree, I wanted it to be for something that would accelerate a career I loved. In other words, I didn’t want to plunge into graduate school and then be forced into a career I had to choose based on the degree I earned. For me, it had to be the other way around.

(And, had I gone to graduate school straight away, I would have been pursuing an MA in English in the hopes of going on to a PhD program. Needless to say, it would have been a disturbing waste of loan money.)

Despite her sage wisdom, and despite the Great Recession, I started my first job 3 days after graduating. The only thing I felt was super pissed at not having one more summer vacation before diving into the adult world and never having one again.

Fast forward 6 years. It’s April 2015, and Kevin is debating a monumental life change. He’s 3 years out of law school, and despite having a stable—albeit time-consuming—job as a lawyer, he’s dissatisfied. Lawyering is not what he thought it would be. He expected a career that offered endless variety and intriguing intellectual challenges. Instead, it had become monotonous.

He began to work on automating some of the repetitive parts of his job and found that he loved the challenge of programming. Around the same time, he had been reading books about math and information theory (nerd!) and found the subject fascinating. But he knew there was no way he could practice law and formally study computer science. His plan: Retire from law, find a part-time job, preferably in his new field of interest, and return to school.

Step one of his plan would be easy (in theory—it’s never easy to say goodbye to great coworkers); steps two and three, not so much.

Dobby helping me study for Accounting.

If one thing has been said about me, it’s that if you’re looking for a job, I’m the person you want to tell. Over the course of my life I’ve signed up for so many job-alert emails that I’m practically a mini work-placement service. So when Kevin told me he wanted a job in tech, my challenge began. I sent him job after job after job, all the while keeping his spirits up because he was losing hope.

“Who wants to hire a lawyer for a part-time IT job?” he would ask. “You never know until you try!” I would tell him.

As it turns out, the University of Florida did. On his first and only interview, Kevin landed a part-time IT job working for one of UF’s many entities. And working at UF, even part-time, would allow him to easily run around campus to attend classes in the middle of the workday. Steps two and three: Check!

It was around this time of change that Kevin helped me realize that my own situation was not ideal. (Either that, or he just didn’t want to be alone in his educational endeavor.) For years, he had been urging me to go back to school for something—anything!—citing that I was too smart to be doing what I was doing. (#humblebrag) While I would have loved to have gone back to school, I never wanted to take out more student loans or stop making money. (And this is what my aunt meant by “it’s hard to go back.” Money is like a drug; it’s hard to stop making that paper once you start.)

But one of the benefits my employer provides is free school: the company will reimburse me for up to six credits per semester of graduate work that I successfully complete with a C or better. What’s more, a friend at work had told me about a business Master’s degree at UF that had an IT focus: the Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM) program. It was as if all the stars were aligning: this was the perfect program for me, as it would allow me to gain more technical skills while polishing the business skills I had acquired through 6 years of employment.

With a new goal in mind (and probably the first real goal I had set in a very long time, besides “convince Kevin to marry me”), I immediately began my plan of attack. With applications due June 1, I had just under 2 months to study for the GRE, take the GRE and receive an acceptable score, write a cheesy admissions statement, solicit three letters of recommendation, get my boss’s support and approval for going back to school, and plan how I was going to attend school part-time while continuing to work full-time.

Having planned our wedding in just 2 months, I knew this would be a piece of pie compared to that.

And to make a long story short, it all worked out (somehow).

Fall 2015 was our first semester as a husband/wife team of working graduate students. And despite work, despite Kevin getting converted to a full-time position, despite both of us also being on the board of directors for a local non-profit, despite being at work at 7:00 AM and staying until 5:30 PM to make up lost time—we both made straight A’s. (#notsohumblebrag)

I have made so many friends, most of whom are from other countries, through ISOM. Here is a group of us at an international potluck and game night.

I know, you must be wondering: How did our personal lives not fall apart? It’s funny, I had the same reaction. I thought for sure the schedules we now keep would put a huge strain on our relationship, but in fact the opposite has happened. Kevin and I are in the best harmony we’ve ever experienced. We communicate and plan way more than we ever have. If I have to work late for class or can’t make it home at a reasonable hour, he knows to let the dogs out and start dinner without me. Likewise, on days that he has to work late, I know I need to take care of things at home and fend for food myself (i.e., hello, Panera Rapid Pickup!). Neither of us has ever been especially emotionally needy, so seeing each other for only an hour a day doesn’t bother us much. Sure, we may miss each other, especially during exam weeks, but neither of us has the time to break down and cry about it—not that we would.

Plus, it has been so rewarding to go through this together. Our programs of study tend to complement one another, and our classes have led to many an interesting discussion. We don’t get flustered at the other’s schedule because we understand it. And we love to talk about the future: Where will we be when our degrees are printed? What does the future hold? It’s an exciting time in our lives; who knew such excitement could exist after 25?

One of the most comical parts about going back to school as a “non-traditional student” (i.e., a student who goes part-time) at the ripe age of 28 is that nearly all of my classmates are in their early 20s, and because ISOM offers a combined-degree program, some of them are still undergrads. In group-project situations, I tend to be the one with the sage life advice, and everyone I meet gawks when they hear I’m married. On the plus side, I never get tired of hearing that I don’t look my age.

Business graduate school is all about the group project, which means many a long night in Hough Hall working together. But at least I can capture some nice sunsets now and then.

When I first started, I thought it would be difficult to compete against these full-time students who had nothing to do with their time but study. I had promised myself that I would be a better student in graduate school than I had been in undergrad (e.g., not waiting until the night before to write a 10-page paper, reading chapters as they are assigned instead of…well…never), but that still didn’t seem like enough to do well. How could I possibly put in the hours they must be putting in to earn better grades than theirs? (All of business school is graded relative to your classmates’ performance, so to get an A, you have to prove that you’re better than they are.)

But as I got to know my fellow students and their sometimes nonexistent study habits, I realized that my age actually afforded me the hindsight that these younger students had not yet had the chance to acquire: I know the value of my time, and I know how to be disciplined. If I have to spend 40 hours per week at work, you better believe I’m spending the rest of my free time as wisely as possible. So when I’m not at work, I’m at home reading my textbooks and doing practice problems. Plus, I don’t have to worry about who has a crush on me (Kevin does), if I’m eating well (Kevin feeds me healthy things…usually), or if I’m running out of money (never!), all of which I worried about as an undergrad. Instead, my mind is free to learn about encryption, UML diagrams, and, my favorite class so far, finance!

And when my friends complain about their grades or say they don’t have enough time in the day, I casually remind them that I work full-time, am in class 8 hours per week, and am doing just fine.

Speaking of friends, ISOM has been an incredible experience personally. The majority of my classmates are international students. At first, this intimidated me, but I soon learned that my classmates are some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I’ve made friends from India, China, Taiwan, and several South American countries, and I know that some of my new friends will be friends for life. Learning is great, but being able to make global connections with such kind people is priceless.

I’m not sure where my or Kevin’s Master’s degrees are going to take us, but I know they will keep us in the technology sector, a field that is always changing, which means there will always be something new to learn and new problems to solve. As people who require intellectually stimulating careers, this is perfect for us.



Planning Poor Does Attic Insulation

Think of the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. Also, think of a time in your life when you have felt the hottest (temperature-wise).

DIY blown-in insulation is worse than everything you just imagined. It blows. (haha…ha…ha…)

Our home inspector had noted that the attic insulation was embarrassingly bereft; the A/C duct was completely uninsulated and exposed. We passed this off as something that we could do many years down the road. Besides, it’s not cheap, especially if you don’t do it yourself. Home Depot (HD from here on) charges $1 per square foot. It sounds cheap, but our humble home is 1,476 square feet, and it would cost us the dollar equivalent of that figure (plus tax) to have them do it for us.

And why have someone do for us what we can easily do ourselves??

Required materials: masks, protective eyewear, headlamps, long sleeves, and long pants!

As summer rolled around, our GRU bills began a steady climb towards $200 (and any GNV homeowner will tell you that this is actually very low for a summertime energy bill, thanks to Gainesville having the highest utility rates in the state). When our July bill showed that we owed $249.36 (1,168 kWh used), the attic-insulation project was moved to the front of the queue, but the price tag still deterred us.

In an effort to postpone, we began looking for inexpensive ways to improve our home’s efficiency. We updated the weather stripping on our exterior doors (<$20), and I started shutting my computer off when not in use (which not only saves energy but also keeps our office much cooler). Begrudgingly, we set the A/C to 80 during the day and used ceiling and floor fans to keep cool. (Kevin somehow agreed to this in exchange for the 72 degrees he insists on setting the thermostat to in the evening).

We were excited to learn that our efforts and suffering had paid off: our August bill was slightly lower ($205.82, 916 kWh used), even though the average daily temperature and rainfall numbers had remained the same.

Then, in September, HD advertised a deal: if we opened a store credit card, we could get 10% off any purchase. And because we are masochists with excellent credit, we decided to take the plunge and insulate the attic…in September…in Florida…in swampy Gainesville.

And did I mention that this task requires one to wear long sleeves and pants??

Our attic is very shallow, which is good (we didn’t need to buy a TON of insulation) and bad (it was extremely difficult to maneuver around). We estimated we would need 28 bags of the itch-free, recycled insulation, and at HD if you purchase 25 bags, you can rent the blown-in insulation machine for free. So that’s what we did.

This is what a Mazda Tribute full of insulation (and Carly) looks like.

During checkout, we were asked several times if we wanted to rent a truck to tow all the materials and the machine. But we declined, confident that we could fit everything in the back of my small  SUV. Indeed, it took only two trips (one with Kevin and the machine and one with just me and 28 bags of insulation) to bring everything home.

We had read reviews on HD’s website and knew that we would have to make some adjustments to the hose connected to the machine. Made from flexible plastic, the hose was not sturdy. This is great for maneuvering through a house and an attic if your attic is tall and allows you to stand and roam easily. However, it is not so great for shallow attics that require one to lie on her belly and slither through the rafters.

Our hose addition (minus the pole).

To make the hose work for us and reach the spaces where we could not crawl, we took an old Trader Joe’s coffee canister and duct-taped it on to the end of the hose. We then took a wooden pole we had removed when redoing our master-bedroom closet and duct-taped it to the end of the hose too. This allowed us to extend our reach and angle the end of the hose, controlling the direction of the flow of insulation.

We have two attic access points: one on the north side of our house in the laundry room and one on the south side of our house in the hallway. We decided to start at the laundry room, since it was close to the exterior side of the house where the machine would be. Since the laundry-room access point is the hardest to shimmy into (it’s right where the roof starts to slope, leaving not much room to crawl in, let alone maneuver), we agreed that I would start in the attic and Kevin would start on the machine.

Me, readying myself for round two in the attic.

At first, it was great. I was getting a breeze, the air was breathable, and the heat wasn’t too unbearable. After about 15 minutes, however, the dust from the insulation was so thick that I could no longer see. When I realized it wasn’t really necessary to use my eyes, I began aiming the hose randomly. This worked very well for about another 15 minutes, but then I needed a break. Kevin and I switched places.

I thought it would be better to be outside and work the machine, and while this job was definitely the lesser of the two evils, it was still evil. I had to cram tightly packed cubes of recycled material into an archaic machine and then use a meter stick to jam them down into a terrifying mechanism that would chop them up and shoot them through the hose. Despite being in the shade and the fresh air, I was still sweating my ass off and standing in a cloud of insulation dust.

Kevin working the machine.

Dragging the hose through the entire house to get to the other attic entrance. This exacerbated the dust issue.

What’s worse, once we moved to the other attic entrance, the insulation-stuffer had to constantly run down the hallway to the insulation-blower to make sure they weren’t dying. The machine was too loud for us to communicate using our voices, and the hose was too long to communicate using hose signals. Walkie-talkies would have been very helpful, but I’m not sure we would have understood each other over the roar of the machine and through the face masks we were wearing.

We continued like this for hours. Based on reviews we had read, we estimated we would need three to four hours. In reality, we took at least six. Eventually, I got so fatigued that I insisted Kevin be the insulation-blower permanently. Because he is such a gentleman, he obliged, but I checked on him every 5 minutes and brought him drink after drink. He also donned a headlamp, though it really didn’t help him to see through the dust storm.

The heat was extreme and stifling, despite Kevin lugging one of our portable fans into the attic to try to keep the air flowing. We both sweated so much that we changed our clothes and then sweated completely through those. Our lungs were thick with dust (our one downfall: not getting high-grade face masks), but we couldn’t breathe anyway, so it didn’t really matter. Our house was also covered in dust, even rooms that we didn’t enter and had closed off.

By the evening, we had finished, but our work was hardly over. We still had to drag the machine back to HD. When we returned home, we had the entire house to clean, because EVERYTHING was covered in a thick layer of dust. I would not be exaggerating too much if I said it looked like ground zero.

When our GRU bill arrived the next month, I was gripped by anxiety as I opened the email, fearing that we had gone through hell for nothing. But there it was, our amount owed: $183.95 (804 kWh used).  In October, our bill was $154.32 (579 kWh used), though it was 7 degrees cooler on average that month.

In all, we spent just under $400. I suppose we won’t know until next summer if it paid off. I’m eager to compare this year’s usage to last year’s.

Kevin, heading up for one of his final trips. (You can see we’re nearing dusk based on the darkness of the room at the end of the hall.)

A few weeks later, I found a cube of insulation that we had forgotten to return. Somehow, it had nestled itself among our things and we’d overlooked it. I returned it to HD, and the lady at the customer-service desk was the same one who had signed me up for the credit card and sold me the insulation. She looked at me in awe.

“You’re the first person I’ve ever met who actually did this themselves!” she gawked.

“Really?” I asked. I found this quite unbelievable, considering how cheaply it can be done by oneself.

“Yeah. Everyone else just uses our service!”

I beamed with pride. Yes, it sucked, and we probably have lung damage, and though we may have to do this project again in the future, it was undoubtedly worth the effort, considering we saved over $1,000 by doing it ourselves. (Though next time, we will probably splurge and use the AttiCat brand, which supposedly produces significantly less dust.)

Planning Poor Does Final Fantasy Football

As many of you know, for most of our lives, Kevin and I have not really been fans of sports. Sure, Kevin likes to follow soccer, and I enjoy watching volleyball and gymnastics on occasion, and who doesn’t love the Olympics? But as far as day-to-day sports knowledge, we would be the worst picks for your trivia team.

Then I was hired by UF’s athletic association, and we gradually became more and more interested in UF sports. We’ve attended football, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball games, and we lazily check scores for away games (when we remember).

So when our friend Chad invited us to play in his Yahoo fantasy football league, we scoffed. There was no way we could join a league. We knew nothing about pro football. Between the two of us, we could probably name three players and a handful of teams. I expressed my concerns to Chad, who told me that we could play as a power couple if we wanted, managing a team together (as if this option would warrant us any better off than playing alone!). Thankful to be included but knowing we were completely inept on the subject, we decided to take Chad’s offer (and only on the condition that it wasn’t a paid league).

Did we study before the draft? No. Did we know about waivers and free agents and trades? No. Anything we knew about fantasy football we learned from watching The League. We knew we were going to be the Tacos of our own league. Hell, I couldn’t stop calling it “Final Fantasy Football” in my head, thanks to years spent playing my most beloved PlayStation games of all time.

Who would you pick for your Final Fantasy Fantasy team? My first pick would be Squall, duh.

Kevin was in charge of the draft (I was shopping and could not be bothered to come home early to help), and we were last pick (but luckily the pick order lassoed so that we got two picks in a row). I arrived home midway through the draft to find a very frustrated Kevin trying desperately to research what remained of the mid-level players. His strategy was to go for players who professional fantasy football predictors (yes, that is a job…some people’s jobs require them to just sit around and think, write, and talk about fantasy football…not even real football) thought would be break-out players, ones that other people only picked as gambles. I didn’t know or care, so I didn’t interrupt his process. When the draft was over, our team was this:

Our team at time of draft.

Feeling in over my head, I turned to the only fantasy football participants I knew: my sister (who dominated last year) and my brother-in-law (the poor die-hard Oakland fan…and this is funny to me now because I know how terrible Oakland is). With their help, our Week 1 team ended up as this:

Our Week 1 team.

(Yes, I started two tight ends…and it was the only week that Zach Ertz did anything for me.)

So we went into Week 1 not expecting much. Yahoo scored our draft as B-, the lowest in our league. I had only heard of two people on our roster: Peyton Manning and Riley Cooper. We didn’t even know what exactly a running back, wide receiver, or tight end did. (And I’m still shaky on the tight end. Why is it called a tight end? I still think it has something to do with their butts.)  Somehow, by the grace of Shiva (for those who don’t know, this is a reference to The League and the Final Fantasy Guardian Force of the same name), we dominated our Week 1 matchup:

Team Pterodactyl for the win!!

Energized and suddenly bursting with curiosity, we headed into Week 2, which we won without too many changes to our lineup. Then, in Week 3, I decided to take a more active role.

Though I may not love pro football, I hate losing even more; I’m very competitive. After two wins, I was feeling the urge to be the best, and I decided I was going to do everything I could to steer our team toward a third victory. I started researching players, teams, defenses, etc. I scoured forums, websites, data, graphs, anything I could get my eyes on to learn more and rework my team. I put in multiple waivers, not caring about my waiver position, for anyone whom I thought could improve our team. I watched all the Yahoo prediction videos, and then re-watched them when I read something that proved them incorrect. I learned what a depth chart was and how to read one, and saved the link to the entire list of NFL depth charts as a bookmark in my Web browser. I was on fire and could not be stopped. I even made a color-coded, extremely detailed spreadsheet to give myself an overview of my own predictions and the actual outcomes each week.

But no, I did not, and still have not, watched a single game of pro football.

Enthused by my enthusiasm, Kevin told all of our friends that he didn’t know who I was anymore. Three weeks ago, we made fun of people who wasted their time on something so trivial. Now, we (or at least I) were those people. Unbeknownst to me, Kevin caught my dancing around the house, singing, “Khi-ry Robinson, Khi-ry Robinson” to the “Sing Sweet Nightingale” song from Cinderella. (I sincerely have no memory of doing this; that’s how automatic it was in my brain.) We spent our evenings chattering on and on about players, their injuries, whom to pick up off the waiver, and how we could possibly make it through another week with a win. (This sounds normal, but these are topics that have never broached our evening chats. Two months ago I would have laughed if someone would have told me this would be our future.)

Most importantly, my sister and I finally had a common interest in something. (She likes rap; I like indie. She likes comedies; I like artsy films. She likes sports; I like art. She has huge boobs and no butt; I have the opposite.)

After three weeks of riding the FF high, Week 4 found us biting our nails and preparing for the worst. I knew for sure this week would be our downfall. Four of our best players and our defense were on bye, one of our better players was injured until Week 7, our kicker was going to have a terrible week, and I was going to be forced to use my WR4/5 as a WR2. (This lingo, I learned, means I had to use my fourth/fifth-tier wide receiver as a second-tier wide receiver.) Drastic measures had to be taken. I put in three waivers, only one of which I received (we were in last position for waivers), leaving me to fill out my team with whatever remained of the free agents. I made a few more swaps and ended up with a team that was still slated to lose (by a lot) to our opponent. (Yahoo predicted we would score 90.75 points, with our opponent scoring 102.21.)

Our Week 4 lineup (left) compared to our opponent’s (right).

Again, by some miracle of epic proportions, we won. That’s right! Our opponent put in Kirk Cousins instead of Jay Cutler for QB (which I still don’t understand, though that change alone wouldn’t have saved him from losing) and his defense ended up scoring negative points. In the end, we won 97.18 to his 73.58.

Now we’re 4-0-0 heading into Week 5. We are the only undefeated team in our league, and Yahoo thinks we’re going to win the whole damn thing. Of course, a lot of tier-one players have been injured this season, and a lot can still change. I’m just happy that we’ve won anything at all, and I’m excited (yes, Carly is excited about sports) to see what happens in the coming weeks. Like others have said, Final Fantasy Football is 5% draft, 5% waivers, and 90% luck. But I think, for our specific case, it’s more like 5% draft, 50% waivers, 45% luck.

Does Chad regret inviting us to play fantasy football? Perhaps, but I’m sure he did not expect Team Pterodactyl to perform nearly as well as we have. My sole goal in this league is to prove him wrong (although I fully intend to lose to him in Week 6)!

Planning Poor Does House Hunters

In September, Kevin came up with his worst idea yet: buying a house. (And it’s the worst because it has required the most amount of effort on my part and has resulted in five new gray hairs.) Throughout our relationship, we have debated the pros and cons of homeownership, and each conversation eventually concluded that it is better to rent; if nothing else, it’s certainly easier than owning a home. However, the financial guru in Kevin couldn’t ignore the falling interest rates and the low home prices, both of which are only going to rise in the coming months. And as long as we live in the home for at least 5 years, it will be cheaper than renting in the long run. So after days of debate, I too became convinced that buying a home is the right thing to do right now. And who doesn’t love looking at houses?? (The correct answer is Kevin.)

So, in October, after doing my research, we chose a Realtor (a local husband-wife team) and began looking at houses. Overall, we only saw six properties before we found “the one.” I know I dogged House Hunters in my previous post, but in truth, I love the show and applied to be on it. Since they never called me back (grrr), I have devised my own HH experience for your reading pleasure. Here are three houses we saw, one of which we chose. See if you can figure out which one we picked! (And no telling if you already know the answer!)

House #1

House #1

3 beds, 2 baths
Price: $94,900
Year Built: 1957
Square Footage: 1,401
Area of Town: NE Gainesville near Waldo Road and NE 23rd Ave

The Realtors chose this house for us based on similarities to other homes we picked out. It has some nice upgrades, like a bonus room, newer kitchen appliances, and an updated guest bathroom, and the owners were offering to replace the roof as long as they received a competitive offer. It has a nice flow and a great backyard, which includes a storage shed and a tree house (much to Kevin’s delight). Plus, this house is way under our budget, so we could easily make a competitive offer and get the new roof.

Updated kitchen

However, although I loved this house, Kevin really didn’t like it.

Nice backyard, and an unimpressed Kevin

It has little curb appeal, the A/C unit needs to be replaced, there is no screened porch (one of my wish-list items), and the bonus room seems more like a strange attachment. We both dislike the neighborhood; it is just outside our favorite area (downtown/Duckpond) and yet not really walkable or bikeable. Also, the schools are not the best, and the area is so residential that we would be driving some distance for everything—groceries, movies, restaurants, etc. I also dislike that the laundry area is outside of the house in the carport, though it is something I could live with.

House #2

House #2 (really bad picture but it’s the only one I took of the front exterior)

3 beds, 1.5 baths
Price: $109,000
Year Built: 1956
Square Footage: 1,080
Area of Town: NW Gainesville near University & NW 34th Street

Before seeing this house in person, I thought we would really love it—and we do, for the most part. It has a great updated kitchen with porcelain tile floors, new roof, newer piping, beautiful parquet wood floors throughout, neat built-ins, great natural light, and a lot of that vintage charm we are looking for. It is within walking distance to the movies, Publix, restaurants, and a gym, and it is so close to the university, so renting it would be really easy in the future. Although it has only one full bathroom, the half bath is good enough for us and adds a little extra value.

Living area with beautiful floors

Updated kitchen

Weird bonus room as viewed from the backyard

While Kevin and I both like this house a lot, we have some concerns. First, the backyard needs a ton of work, and several trees overhanging the roof need to be cut back. Also, the house has a very strange bonus room that can’t be accessed from the main house (we had to go through the carport to get to it), and yet this room is the only way to get to the backyard. So, if I wanted to let Peanut outside to do her business, I would have to walk her out of the house via the kitchen, into the carport, through the weird bonus room, and out the bonus room back door to the backyard. I also don’t like that there is no screened-in porch or outdoor space. The weird bonus room could be converted to a porch and connected to the house by replacing the wood siding with screen and replacing some interior windows with doors, but that would be a lot of work, effort, and money. We also don’t like the windows; except for the windows in the bonus room, all of the windows are the slatted kind (which are very energy inefficient), and they aren’t screened. This is one of the smaller houses we saw, and we wouldn’t gain much more square footage than we currently have in our townhouse. To top it off, there are dead bugs and rodent droppings everywhere and weird, not-to-code construction problems (like a cable wire running from the outside, through a hole in the slatted window, into a bedroom). Despite its charm, it seems like it may be more than we can handle in a first home.

Yet, we love the bones of the house and the area, and we think we could really make it our own (with a good cleaning and some porch construction!).

House #3

House #3

3 beds, 2 baths
Price: $129,000
Year Built: 1969
Square Footage: 1,476
Area of Town: NW Gainesville near the intersection of Newberry Road and NW 8th Ave

We decided to view this house, even though it was above the price range we set for ourselves. However, everything is negotiable in real estate, so we figured we could make a deal if we chose this house. There is so much to like about this house: huge backyard, fantastic curb appeal, new roof, new A/C unit, updated kitchen (with gas range, which Kevin swooned over), and a cute screened-in porch with brick flooring and a metal roof. It has more than enough space for us, but I’m sure we would find ways to fill the house. I really like the flow of the house (it reminds me a lot of the house I grew up in), and there are several fruit trees in the backyard (fig, kumquat, and orange!). There would be very little we would have to compromise on here, and yet there are plenty of opportunities for us to make small improvements to really make the house our own. Plus, the house is close to the mall, the highway, North Florida Regional Hospital, shopping, restaurants, and the university, so we could probably rent it to a family or serious student down the road.

Kitchen and dining area with screened-in porch access

Bonus room (formerly a carport)

View of backyard from porch (and shed in disrepair)

As for negatives, it’s not my favorite area of town. The main road nearby can get congested during rush hour because of its proximity to the highway, but the house is still within a short drive to most of the places we visit. We would be further from downtown, which we really dislike, and we would probably have to cancel our downtown gym memberships, because we would never go. The street the house is on is quiet, though we could hear some noise from the main road when standing in the yard (but we live in a city, so this doesn’t really bother us). Also, I don’t like the carpet. It’s in good condition and seems newer, but it’s not a color I would choose. We also discovered a minor electrical problem, and there is a shed in the backyard and a few trees that would need to come down ASAP. And, of course, it’s above our preferred price point.

So…which house do you think we chose? We are closing on one of these houses soon (assuming there are no issues with the financing…fingers crossed), and I will update later with the answer!

Also, I’m pleased to report that Kevin did not mention “man cave” once in our search! I doubt the thought even crossed his mind, though our Realtor did mention it in one of the houses we looked at, and I had to give him an abbreviated spiel about the idiocy of the man cave.

Planning Poor Does Hiawassee

In October, Kevin and I drove to the picturesque mountain town of Hiawassee, Georgia for a mini vacation. Between fighting over music choices, discovering we had no beverages in the car except for alcohol, and pulling over every 50 miles for Kevin to mark his territory and/or eat, the 12+ hours we spent driving felt more like a mini prison sentence. But there is no one I’d rather be imprisoned with than my handsome, charming fiance (awwwwww). (Ask me for an updated answer in 25 years.)

Our other purpose for the trip was to witness our friends Rob and Amanda tie the knot. They had a lovely ceremony followed by a raucous reception. To redeem the self-deprecating photos of posts past, here is the only decent picture of us ever taken. Since we are both rather un-photogenic, consider this equivalent of seeing a leprechaun.


Our betrothed friends had made lodging arrangements for out-of-town guests at their beautiful resort venue, but in true Planning Poor style, we stayed where we could get the best rate. My family used to vacation in the mountains, and I knew I could find a backwoods cabin (a la Cabin in the Woods) for a steal if I Googled hard enough. (You can find anything if you Google hard enough.)

Eventually, I found Boundary Waters Resort and Marina, a small inn on beautiful Lake Chatuge. The rates were low compared to other hotels in the area, the owners were offering a buy-two-nights-get-one-free deal, and guests received free kayak and canoe rentals! That was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Entrance to our room.

Entrance to our room.

View from our porch.

View from our porch.

Unfortunately for Kevin, eating 20 bacon-wrapped scallops, indulging in rich, Southern cuisine, and/or imbibing an unlimited amount of alcohol (all of this at the reception) was an offer his stomach had to refuse.

The morning after the wedding, I was roused from sleep by Kevin leaping from the bed and charging toward the bathroom like a female rhino in heat. (Strangely, this is the exact opposite of his trajectory the night of his proposal.) What I heard next I will refer to simply as sounds-that-shall-not-be-named, followed by a shower. An hour later, I dared to enter the bathroom; I found Kevin lying on the floor, wet and naked, and sandwiched between two towels, using a smaller towel to cover his eyes. The poor boy was paralyzed with nausea and pain. Since I am a wonderful fiancee, I immediately laughed……and then drove to the local grocery store (Ingles, which is better than Publix, if you can believe it), where I purchased generic Pepto and Advil for Kevin and a box of fresh pumpkin and blueberry muffins and a Starbucks coffee with soy milk for moi. (Yes, Ingles has a Starbucks in the store.) (Yes, mountain people drink nice coffee too.) I wonder what the cashier thought of that purchase…

I was hoping Kevin would feel better by the extended check-out time I thoughtfully negotiated, but he didn’t, and I knew he was not going to make it down those 180-degree, winding mountain roads on the return drive, where there are no shoulders to pull over if his stomach decided to expunge more of its contents. Thankfully, we were able to get our room for another night, which left me with Barfo Hublou, an entire day to do nothing, and…CABLE TV!

We don’t have cable at home because we don’t need cable to survive. We get plenty of entertainment from our Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime subscriptions, all of which cost less than cable. Thankfully, Kevin isn’t a sports fanatic and thus doesn’t require ESPN, which is the only justifiable reason to have cable TV these days.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss cable, especially HGTV (specifically House Huntersalthough I recently discovered that Amazon Prime has several seasons available for streaming). Kevin despises HGTV. But how much can he protest when he’s sprawled on the bathroom floor unable to pry the remote from my cold, house-hunting hands? The answer is not at all. And so it was with maniacal glee that I watched endless HGTV…all…day…long.

Now, any half-brained chimp could watch two or three episodes of House Hunters and figure out the formula: A person or couple needs a house, the Realtor shows them three, they pretend to think about it really, really hard, and then they purchase one and you get to see how they like it 3 months later. However, it takes several marathons of House Hunters to realize all the things you hate about these house-hunting people and/or couples (and you know you hate most of them). Here are my top pet peeves, discovered during what I have termed the Hiawassee HGTV House Hunters Barfo Hublou marathon.

The Man Cave

I like to think that most men on House Hunters are the kinds of men fathers want their children to marry. For the men/couples 40 years and older that appear on the show, this is usually true. For those under 40, I am almost always duped into liking them until they walk into a basement or bonus room and utter: “YES! ROOM FOR MY MAN CAVE!”

For those who don’t know, the “man cave” is a room where men go to watch TV or play games or do man things, and generally the intent is that women aren’t allowed in. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this term annoys me. All men who say this sound not only misogynistic but also like prehistoric cavemen (which is why they probably belong in a man cave anyway). Why can’t the woman be part of the room? Why are only men allowed to congregate in front of and scream at televisions? Why is the woman relegated to the kitchen to cook for the men in the cave? If you are buying a house with someone, you should be able to tolerate them enough to share all rooms with each other. If Kevin ever utters the word “man cave” on our house hunt, it is over. Don’t think I won’t leave him for a non-man-cave specimen on the spot.

The worst part is how these caveman episodes end. When the male is especially excited about the man cave, House Hunters (without fail) ends the show with the man reclining in some fancy couch he bought himself for his man cave while his wife/girlfriend/future divorcee makes and delivers a meal to his lap. I don’t know how they get the women to agree to do this. While we’re reversing the progress of the female gender, why not slap on some 1950s-inspired high heels, polka dots, and aprons too?

The Double Vanity / Gigantic Bathroom

One of the interesting parts of HH is learning what people find important in a home. For some, updated kitchens with granite counter tops and stainless-steel appliances are the priority; for others, it’s all about the double vanity and/or the gigantic master bathroom. I have learned that, for many people, sharing a sink with their significant other is unthinkable. But as I watch these episodes, I have to ask myself, “Do these people understand the literal meaning of what they are saying?”

I love when couples start out the show by saying, “I NEED that double vanity! We are so tired of bumping into each other!” and then HH has them childishly recreate their morning bathroom routine. (I even saw a guy step out of the shower in a towel once…very weird, HH). I guess I can’t understand why this is so important because Kevin and I get ready at different times of the morning, and we have more than one bathroom, so if he is using one sink, I’ll go to another. No big deal. But for some people, this is a huge deal. I just can’t help but giggle when a couple walks into a bathroom and squeals with delight, “YES! The double vanity I’ve been looking for!” Uh…hello? DOUBLE vanity. That means by wanting those sinks, you are twice as vain as you are with your one sink. But because we are so used to “vanity” not meaning the same thing when it is used to describe bathroom sinks, no one ever realizes what this sounds like to that rare, intellectual viewer.

As for the giant bathroom, I don’t understand why people want a larger place to do their dirty work. Not only is it more to clean and sterilize, but some house hunters act like their bathroom will be their main living area—a place to relax and unwind. Maybe it’s because I’m not a bath person, but I don’t want to be in my bathroom any longer than I have to be, especially if I have to be in there after Kevin on taco night. I get in, get clean, and get the hell out. I don’t understand the need to relax where you defecate.

After spending nine hours lying on the hotel bathroom floor, though, maybe Kevin does