The Sobering Cost of Rent

If you read almost any money guru book these days, they are still harping on a very outdated rule of thumb that doesn’t really reflect the current housing market. The advice? Keep rent to 30% or less of your income.

If someone made 2k a month, that’s $600. (roughly 24,000/yr, $7,200 rent)
If someone made 3k a month, that’s $900. (roughly 36,000/yr, 10,800 rent)
If someone made 5k a month, that’s $1500. (roughly 60,000/yr, 18,000 rent)
If someone made 9k a month, that’s $2700. (roughly 108,000/yr, 32,400 rent)

In my current area, which is a nice suburban area outside a large metropolitan, in one of the most expensive states to live in, renting a small room is $650-800+. Most larger rooms with a private bathroom will run $900+. A two bedroom apartment is $1800+. Renting a basic home is $2600+. I don’t really know how many people are really able to spend only 30% unless they are shacking up with other friends or both making a nice income.

Here’s an article that breaks down the income necessary to make rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in America’s largest cities. Many people can make the rent by not following the 30% rule or living very frugally. The problem is, many of these places have a formula in place that require you to make 3x the rent per month or make 40x the rent annually. This means that even though one may be able to afford the rent, they may not qualify based on income expectations. For a couple that both works full time? This isn’t as difficult. For a family that has one breadwinner that has a decent job but not a high paying job? That’s problematic.

To live in Southern California, it basically takes two $45,000+ salaries to qualify for anything more than a bedroom. To have a home in Southern California, it basically takes two $50,000+ salaries or four $30,000+ salaries. There’s a reason why owning a home looks like something so far in the distance at this point. How long would it take you based on your annual income and savings plan, to gather 20% down for a half a million plus home? How much can one save for a house when rent is this high?

Sobering.

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Legalism/Unity – A Free Verse

Legalism says we’re different.
Too different.

Legalism says here’s a piece of chalk:
Now draw a line. 

Legalism is the air-
Used in inflating egos.

Legalism says don’t question.
Just nod.

Legalism says
only show them your good side.

Legalism says
you’ll never be good enough.

Unity says we have differences
but also God. 

Unity says see my ugly;
see our ugly.

Unity says admonish
in love.

Unity says let’s discuss
and work this out together.

Unity says gather for
‘Iron sharpens Iron’.

Unity says
But with God all things are possible.

“Let’s Rename It.”

I clocked out of work on Monday, sat in my car, and checked my phone for voicemails and text messages. My art teacher has cancelled most of our planned meetings since her cancer diagnosis but today, I was notification free. My gut feeling wasn’t positive, but I drove over to her place anyway.

I was greeted at the door by my winded and pale friend. She grasped the door firmly and it took all her energy to just speak. “It changes from one moment to the next. I was doing better earlier,” she explained. From there I was beckoned into the kitchen where she placed a cracker-sized piece of sourdough topped with cheese, salami, and tomato in my hand. She leaned over the kitchen counter and tried to forcefully eat hers. “I’m trying. I’m really trying [to care for myself].” I watched her take a half-hearted bite while tears trickled down the corner of her eyes. She was exhausted. She felt defeated.

I forcefully swallowed the salami cheese lump in my throat and hugged her gingerly. I had tears too. “I’m sorry you are going through this,” I whispered. I walked back to my spot and finished my snack for her sake.

“I’m trying to pray fairly,” I told her. “I pray with faith for God to fully heal you if that’s His will, but I also pray that if it’s your time He gives you strength and lessens the pain.”

She nods and then apologizes for crying and I tell her it is perfectly fine to cry.

Her photoshop lessons are on pause indefinitely. Since she is now technically in hospice, we work on end-of-life planning. She helps me with painting and I help her gather pictures for her memorial montage. It’s just as heavy and grim as it sounds in theory, paired with her sharing sweet memories from certain snapshots.

We began with a new desktop folder. “What would you like to name it?” I dare not name it myself.

“Last.” She says firmly.

I type in her request with a heavy heart. We open up her pictures folder and go through each folder, one by one. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, because I was CTRL+Z’ing some of the accidental shortcuts I made, but we had the folder name disappear twice when it shouldn’t have. Either her archaic laptop was freaking out, or I was subconsciously undo-ing more than once. The important part is that I wasn’t trying and truly didn’t understand why the folder name kept changing if I had so many images in there already and it wasn’t undo-ing THAT.

“Look. It disappeared again!” I searched her desktop for the Last folder and found it hiding out as “new folder 4”. “Perhaps last is not the right name for it. We need something more hopeful.”

She tightens her jaw. “Let’s rename it.” She takes a moment as her voice quivers: “Hope.” She apologizes again for crying. “Maybe it’s not my time yet.” We both remain quiet in the intensity of the moment. She pulls out a tissue and wipes her eyes. “You know, this is the first time I’m crying for me.”

Even though the buggy little four-letter folder may have been a glitch or oversight on my part, it truly was a miracle for her. It strengthened her and gave her hope for that day. And I know in that way, it was from God. It was a sign she isn’t defeated yet.

The Great Case Purge!

Toss all the CD/DVD Cases! 
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I used to be on the other side of this fence. How could someone ditch the case?! As a staunch lover of non-digital books and music (although I can appreciate digital!) however, I am rather inundated with media in bulky cheap plastic shells. I realized in this day and age with the churn rate of music and movies, that quality of packaging has gone to the crapper. My dvd cases lack the quality and heft they once did. The cheaply printed inserts lack a sheen and I can detect PIXELS from low resolution. This is probably because I peruse the $4/$8/$10/$12 section when I can which is probably so mass media they don’t give a bleep. I can appreciate the cover art and CD inserts but not so much the quality control these days.  Plus those flimsy eco paper cases? Barf. Hate them.

I purged the films and music I figured I’d never want to watch/listen to again or disliked and put the rest into the cases I bought off amazon. Now the towering pile is clear and the rest live in a black zippered case. Here’s a link if you want one.


Confession: I didn’t ditch all my cases. I’m a designer after all. I adore GOOD packaging. The nicest ones and favorites have survived the fate of being stripped. I kept about 25% of my DVDs in their cases and about 20% of my CDs. It’s all about balance. I only purged about 10% of my media because I’m pretty selective even though I have a good sized collection. I don’t buy DVDs often because I seldom rewatch things. And music I don’t care for I pass on.

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I also kept a majority of the CD inserts because I do appreciate the design and effort that goes into them and I am horrible at remembering lyrics. 😉 The CDs live above their companion inserts.

The DVDs live in a separate case and because I don’t own too many movies, I moved a lot of the family DVDs and mine into the DVD case and made the living room less cluttered for all.

I’m really happy I took the dive. It was time. This is probably one of the biggest change of hearts I’ve had since minimizing because for so many years I didn’t want to be a media case person.

One of the most helpful lessons I’ve learned from minimizing and following some minimalists is processing packaging. Some packaging is functional. Some packaging is necessary. But a lot of it? Once an item is bought it loses its appeal. Boxes and cases take up a lot of space. It’s better to remove most items and some dry food from its original packaging and either put it into something that organizes it or makes it easier to store. In this situation, the cases I ordered save me from visual clutter and don’t take away from the experience of what it is.

I’d highly recommend this project to everyone. Also because this gives me more space for books. And books are never clutter. 😉

His First Word is “Banana”

At least, that’s what his mom and dad claim. I have yet to hear this mythical first word despite my constant coaxing. He is now fluent in the ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ department, and babbles ‘banana’ on Tuesdays when Mama works at the birth center and Dada takes him to a nearby Trader Joes for a weekly banana treat. Some of his outbursts are also uncanny for ‘Yeah!’

Kai is now a little over 9 months, and I look at this little dude and think of how much he’s grown. He is both spirited and inquisitive and flips sides at the drop of a pin. In the grocery store, he’ll be all smiles and wave like crazy to everyone around him and then pause all emotion to examine the face of a particular person. He often folds his hand into a loose fist, with his pointer finger stuck out and posed on the corner of his mouth making that “hmm” pose. It’s the cutest thing.

Every month Kai grows and reaches new milestones is also a bittersweet moment of reflection for my brother, who still suffers from a concussion due to an auto accident that happened exactly one month before my nephew was born. I think of how hard it must be to mark his son’s new advancements and his limitations on the same day each month. It gets hard to answer those around me who are praying for my brother with the exact news months later: “There are slight improvements but he’s about the same.”

Kai adores his daddy. They spend almost every waking minute of their day together. It’s definitely harder for my brother to try to get all his mental exercises done and have time to rest with a baby on his hands, but at the same time, despite the constant migraine, he’s also blessed with being at home and bonding with his son during Kai’s first year of life. I think of the what-if: if he didn’t have the accident he would be working full time or be in grad school and working part time. My SIL has worked really hard to keep them afloat with her midwifery while being a good mom and wife. She’s really shown me how resilient she is. I’m hoping and praying that in the next few months, Kai and Daddy can both work on big milestones together – Kai in development and N in healing. Secretly, I’m hoping for a birthday miracle in September.