Thursday, May 19, 2011

36 Days To Go...

Some days feel very productive and some are downright frustrating. Today was a mix of both. I started off with one of the, in my opinion, best kept savings secrets...consignment. I have been consigning for about 4 years now and am completely hooked! The consignment shop here on post allows you to bring in up to 20 items per day (subject to other rules and limits). Today I brought in 20 items. I will make 70% of the prices that I set if my items sell at full price. This is a great alternative to simply getting a tax write off which, really only benefits you if you itemize. Thrift shopping allows people of limited means (or those who just want to save a little money) to purchase things that they may not otherwise be able to afford. The Consignment shop here on post gives the proceeds to programs for the soldiers and the community so by bringing your items in, you are still helping out while simultaneously helping yourself. Last month I didn't bring anything in but still this month I picked up a check for about $10 which was residual from the month before. Last month's check was almost $100. It's definitely not an income that you can count on but a little mad money never hurt anyone! So today I dropped off my 20 items which helped me purge a little more of my stuff and potentially will make me a little bit of money. A trip to the Consignment shop always makes me feel good all around!

Housing is one thing that we all start worrying about as soon as we get orders because frankly, it's a crap shoot. Some military posts allow you a choice of at least 2 or 3 houses and some don't. All of the houses are of varying ages and levels of reconstruction etc so you really never know what you are going to get. Here at Redstone Arsenal, we have a pretty good size house (1400ish square feet) with a fenced yard and a garage. Our neighborhood is pretty quiet. We have had some repair issues with our house but overall I think we were a little bit spoiled. Fort Hood has so many housing areas/types/neighborhoods that who knows what we will get. When you PCS you have about 10 days to find housing and get settled before the soldier goes back to work so you usually want an idea of whether you are going to live on or off post. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I generally prefer to live on post and my husband prefers off...can you see the difficulty here in this already difficult time?

Today I called the housing office and found out what housing area we will be in and that our new house will be about 1400 square feet. The leasing agent was great. She provided me with tons of info about the house and said that she would send me the floor plan. Of course being over 800 miles away, I am going completely by word of mouth. I have gotten some different views because when I found out where we were going, I "Liked" some Fort Hood spouse (and other similar) facebook pages. This is a great way to get the scoop on neighborhoods, housing issues and concerns, goings on, etc. It can also be a great way to start to meet friends before you even arrive. Just remember though, just like online dating, people online can be very different than they are in person. Anyway, after chatting with the lovely leasing agent and getting some info on facebook, I am feeling better about our on post housing possibility. Fort Hood does not give you a choice in houses so you get what they pick for you or you move off post. Period. One big selling point for us is that the lease is month to month. With housing now privatized this is an important thing to know. Where we are currently, there is a year lease and then you go month to month so if you choose to live on post, you are stuck there for a year unless you pay penalties. Fort Hood's policy is 1 month notice and you are free to your own expense, of course but it is definitely great to know that the option is available.

Taking these few small steps really helped ease my stress about the house situation. We may still end up going off post if we don't like what we are offered but I am much less anxious about it. One of the best recommendations that I can make is to talk about the possibilities. In my experience, most leasing agents will answer questions as long as you are nice and don't treat them in a crazy way. Also, if you make this inquiry phone call too soon in the process, chances are, they won't be able to answer your questions and the more you ask questions that they can't answer, the more frustrating you become to them. In the long term, you can end up making it more difficult to get assistance when they really can help you. Our waitlist application went in at the 90 day mark and we are now close to the 30 day mark. I called and asked a couple of generic questions and was able to determine that the agent had info that she could provide to help relieve me. Had I asked those questions and found that she really had no idea, no sense in pushing it. Of course, all information that I received remains subject to change but, as I said, the conversation helped ease my mind for now at least.

The more frustrating part of my day was dealing with the vehicle dilemma. When we purchased my husband's truck and my van, the intention was to be able to pack the van with our DITY items and tow it with the truck. Despite the fact that the salesman assured us that this would not be a problem, the other day when my husband went to reserve the car trailer, UHaul advised him that the van was too heavy (even empty) to be towed by the truck. Grrrr. Now the dilemma...RSA to Hood is about a 2 day drive. Having a 6 month old baby who needs lots of attention it would be much easier to all be in one vehicle (besides, who wants to sit in a vehicle alone for 2 days?). When you factor in this plus the rising gas costs, we decided to look into shipping the van. We went online and requested quotes. We are potentially looking at a cost of $550-750 to ship it. Considering 2 days of driving will probably cost a couple to a few hundred dollars in gas, and if we ship the van, we can rent a trailer and load up more stuff DITY (I'll explain DITY moves/partial DITY in a later post) which will increase the amount in our pocket, we decided that that may be the most viable option. But wait...there is another option...ditch the vehicle here and get a new one in Texas. We started looking into leasing a new vehicle in place of the van in order to keep our payments low. Seeing as I don't drive my husband's truck because it is too big, we can't go for long periods without the second vehicle. We got a quote the other day and had intention of signing all of the paperwork ahead of time so that the car would be ready for pickup upon arrival. Today I called to confirm some things and as car dealers often do, they changed the terms and have increased the down payment by about $1000 and the monthly payment by $50. They said the original quote was on the wrong vehicle so they spent much of the afternoon trying to get me to change my mind and get the other vehicle. As far as I am concerned, we will go back to the original plan of shipping the vehicle. There is no way that I am going to increase these payments or take a vehicle that I really don't want. I spent hours on the phone with these people for basically nothing because we both had our feet dug in the sand. It's a little disappointing because I started to get kind of excited about having a brand new car again but oh well. Really it is no big deal but with 36 days to go, wasting time is just not something I wanted to do!

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