Book Reviews life Reading

5 on a Friday

June 28, 2019

1- I finished Digital Minimalism. I have now read several books on cutting down time spent on technology/phone etc. This one is probably my favorite. It is not packed full of data, but instead is centered around the primary ideas that:

Highlighters were put to heavy use in the reading of this book!
  • devices are designed to be incredibly addicting
  • the time you spend on them may add some value, but the trade-off is likely a net negative for you
  • you are likely better off very carefully designing a program of use for your device, because the default/autopilot makes many people unhappy and less able to do meaningful things with their lives

I mean, obviously I wasn’t a hard sell as I have had similar beliefs for years. But even so, I am inconsistent about being able to resist the siren pull of social media and the like. Two of the most useful ideas for me were to a) focus on crowding out time by purposefully doing OTHER THINGS instead and b) define very specifically when you do want to use your social media and what you want to use it for.

I am working on somewhat of a personal manifesto/guideline for how I would like to use it, and that will be coming up. I have already decided my primary non-phone leisure activities are reading and writing. I probably need a more tangible one, too — revisiting the piano or violin? Not sure. I don’t want to force it.

2- We are getting close to our (relatively short, but hopefully fun!) summer trip! We are keeping things relatively low-key this year — no flight. Let’s hope G does well on the long drives to Legoland and then Amelia Island . . .

I’m not worried about the big kids who are as excited for their iPad-time in the car as they are for the rest of our trip!

Actually looking at this map that looks . . .farther than I thought. But from what I’ve heard about Amelia Island, I think it will be worth it!

3- Our YNAB budget is in a sad state. Not in terms of the balance, but in terms of my record-keeping! It stopped syncing with my phone and I’m now 2 months behind again. AGHGH! I desperately want to fix that this weekend.

4- In other budget-related news, we are considering renting out our Miami Beach home. We were planning on selling but . . . as I’ve previously mentioned, the market has not been great. But there is demand (and less supply) in the rental market! Anyone have experience being a landlord? We contemplated using a property manager but . . . I think we may try without first since we’re relatively local and I’m wondering if a manager would be truly worth it.

5- For fun, here is my progress on my summer reading list so far:


  • Field Notes on Love by Jennifer Smith (6/10; light and quick but not super memorable)
  • Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jallaludin (8/10; cultural exploration & romance – a fun mix)
  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (8/10; would make a great movie)
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (9/10; see above)
  • Hope and other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum (6/10; I think I’m just not a YA person)
  • The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth (9/10; my favorite novel of the bunch!)
1 month in

I’m starting Inheritance now. I don’t think I can get through the whole list before school starts mid-August, but at this rate I may be able to do it before the beginning of actual fall . . .


  • Reply Alexis June 28, 2019 at 6:15 am

    Bummer about YNAB, heard you talk about their new model on the podcast. I like HomeBudget, similar where you enter the info yourself and it syncs across devices. I guess I only use it on my phone though. But very customizable, just takes time to set up.

    I love your blog and podcast!!!

  • Reply Katherine June 28, 2019 at 6:31 am

    I’m a property lawyer in England where the rules around renting property out are a nightmare and I expect they are similar in the US. We own a property that is rented to family members, which is only 3 miles away from our home, and even that is stressful dealing with issues when things go wrong and need replacing urgently, tradesmen need to be called out etc and I’m sure it would be much worse with third party tenants. I’m also sure Laura Vanderkam would say this is a time when you should definitely spend out on the expertise of a property manager to preserve your own time for your own core competencies and avoid the stresses of becoming an amateur property rental manager in your non existent spare time.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 28, 2019 at 6:51 am

      Okay you may have some very valid points there!! I’m just wary because the chunk taken out is so high and then you still have to deal with issues just with a middle person?! But maybe not …

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 28, 2019 at 6:51 am

      And very valid point about time and expertise.

      • Reply Laura Vanderkam June 28, 2019 at 11:59 am

        Yes, the people I know who are good DIY landlords are both handy (they fixed up the units themselves, so nothing breaks, and if it does they know how to fix it) and have flexible schedules. While I’m sure you guys are perfectly handy, you don’t have flexible schedules.

        A manager takes a chunk, but if the house is currently bringing in zero income, you’re still going to be better off from a cash flow perspective. Just my two cents!

        • Reply Susan June 28, 2019 at 10:06 pm

          Agreed. You would be giving up some of your flex time – the 10% that you have to yourself. Is that’s worth it? I would say no way. How would you even deal with meeting a repair person at the rental house 30 min away during business hours?? It is pricey but so worth it I think. Also, get recs on property managers – I used to live in FL and there are lots of shady ones…

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 28, 2019 at 8:54 am

    You are killing it on your summer reading plans! I have read some of the ones you’ve read. I enjoyed the YA novels because they are light and airy and I need that since real life – mostly the news/POTUS – are just depressing!

    I rented out a condo for about 5 years. For the first 3 years, I did not have a property manager. The tenant was super duper reliable and awesome to work with. After that I used a property manager and she was amazing. I had a difficult tenant and could not imagine dealing with her without the buffer of a property manager. I highly encourage you to consider hiring someone. I know this takes a cut out of what you will make but trust me, it is worth it. Especially if you are not good at confrontation/negotiating things. Our tenant would make requests about things and it was nice to have someone in the middle who could tell her yes or no. Plus things come up at odd times of the day and I would rather not have to deal with those requests – like an appliance stopped working or there is water leaking in the bathroom, etc. The property manager will have a network of repair people/contractors that she can tap into whereas you’d have to figure out who to call, who is trustworthy, etc etc. I would ask around about property managers. I chose the women who was the property manager for a unit that I rented. She was so amazing to work with as a tenant that I figured she’s be awesome to work with as the property owner. She had a great rate and great reputation and her fee more than paid for the work she did on my behalf. Plus they will handle things like the tax form for rent paid, the lease, etc.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 28, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Oh man, I wrote a super long comment about using a property manager but I think it must not have saved! Anyways, long story short – use a property manager!! It’s nice to have a middle man to deal with things, especially if you do not like saying no or dealing with confrontations. Property managers have a network of repair people they can reach out to when something goes wrong. Also things tend to go wrong at a time of day/week that you don’t want to be calling around and waste your limited free time/down time. They also deal with things like sending the tenant the tax form about rents paid during tax season. I did manage my own rental property for about 5 years when I had a super easy going, super reliable tenant. But after he moved out I hired someone and she did an awesome job. It’s also helpful for them to screen tenants for you and do the background check, etc. I had a couple of difficult tenants and I am so glad I had my property manager to be the middle person as it was easier to tell the prop mgr to tell the tenant no versus me telling the tenant no. Ask around and find out if anyone knows of a great property manager. Some are better than others. Mine was the property manager on a unit I rented so I asked her to manage my property and she was worth the money spent! Do no take this on! Trust me!

    If my other comment did go through, delete this one! 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 28, 2019 at 9:04 am

      I’m keeping both! Ha!

  • Reply Elizabeth June 28, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Hi Sarah – We own a condo and became accidental landlords about 12 years ago when we couldn’t sell it. In that time, we’ve never used a property manager, and it’s worked okay. It helps that we are renting a unit in a building with an HOA that takes care of common maintenance issues. I think some factors that have allowed us to go property-manager free are that the unit is in a desirable part of town, in an incredibly hot rental market (so we have a choice of tenants), and we have (probably, not sure) charged slightly below market rate rent. This has been a big factor in allowing us to keep long-term tenants, which is the biggest part of keeping the whole experience stress free for us. The unit is also close to our work, allowing us to pop over pretty easily if something is going on. However…if the unit was far away from where we lived or work, I’d seriously consider hiring a property manager. Stuff always comes up at the worst possible time (a tenant breaking a lease right in the middle of the busiest time of year for both of us at work, etc.). Distance + demanding jobs+ young kids may mean that a property manager is the right solution for you! Working with a property manager may give you more options to recruit and screen tenants and better info on how to price your rental. I’ll be interested to see which way you go! In any case, while we weren’t looking to become landlords at the outset, it’s been really good for us, and we’re ultimately glad we hung on to our property. Good luck!

  • Reply Shelly June 28, 2019 at 11:19 am

    You may not want to add to your list but we seem to have similar taste in books and I just finished Ask Again, Yes from the MMD guide and loved it. Bc you liked the MIL I think you would really like this one.

  • Reply J. June 28, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Hi Sarah–love your blog! I’m a landlord in Chicago, and we do not use a property manager because we live in a unit in our building. But with what I know about your life from your blog (three small kids and a call schedule), I definitely recommend that you hire one. Just imagine having to drive to the old house every time you need to show it to prospective renters or a sink gets backed up, familiarizing yourself with the local laws so you don’t run afoul of them, doing background checks, dealing with listings, etc…. it will not be worth your time–especially if you are not planning to pursue being a landlord long term as an investment strategy.

  • Reply Colleen June 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    We became accidental landlords and used a property management company. It was spendy, but it was SO much easier than having to deal with the issues ourselves. Particularly since my spouse travels frequently and we have two small kids and no family close to help. I just couldn’t risk the chance of having to handle emergent rental issue while solo parenting. As others have said, they have an arsenal of repair people they worked with so it was SO easy for them to deal with issues vs. me trying to find someone I trusted, meet them to get a quote, etc. It meant all we had to do was “approve” things. Also, it was nice not to have to deal with messy tenant negotiations first hand, and they did really nice things like periodic inspections, etc. It was worth it to me to spend more to reduce the hassle, particularly since I had no desire to be a landlord in the first place. Good luck either way!!!

  • Reply Ali June 28, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    So I hate to spend money, but a property manager sounds necessary if you rent it. I can’t imagine that either of you has the time to deal with problems that pop up? (I would imagine you guys can rely on your nanny to help let in repairmen, etc when you lived there but how would that work with you all a decent distance away?)

    One thing I’d be paranoid about being where your house is…how do property managers deal with hurricane prep? I can’t imagine you’d want to have to deal with that if you’re trying to get out of town.

    I think honestly unless you are in a bad spot where you just can’t sell, it makes more sense to sell for less than you planned than be a landlord when you don’t intend to be. With as much uncertainty as there is about the economy and environment, this seems like a huge chunk of money invested somewhere you didn’t plan to. But I also hate spending money, so who know what I would do in your shoes!!

  • Reply Lisa June 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Having done both, the property management company is well worth the expense for us.

  • Reply Heather July 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I wanted to address your comment that with a property manager you still have to deal with the issues. Yes, but on a much higher level. I rented out a property in Durham, NC. Even in Durham I had a 3 good choices of property mangers (and 2 somewhat questionable ones). I would hope in Miami you have even more choices. The PM we used had an in-house repair service. We agreed at the beginning of the service that all repairs under $150 would just be handled by them without prior authorization. The payment would come out of our monthly distribution. For larger repairs, they would call and get estimates for repairs – and then arrange all of the repairs for me. My participation was more on a decision making basis. The PM did all of the leg work for me. You will be giving up a certain level of control, but also shifting what can be very time consuming work. I’m sure this varies by PM – but with more choices, hopefully you can find someone that offers good service.
    For me, real estate is a big investment. I think it’s easy to look at the monthly fee and question whether you can do it yourself. However, I decided that paying a professional to protect that investment was well worth the cost.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 1, 2019 at 11:55 am

      Thanks heather! After thinking about it and reading everyone’s comments I think if we do rent we will look into property management.

  • Reply Mara July 1, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Considering a trip to Amelia Island- where did you guys decide to stay? I will stay tuned to see how you guys like the trip, but would love a suggestion of a family friendly, but nice spot to stay! Thanks

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