Reader Case Study: Full-time Dog Trainer Needs More Space for… Dog Training!

Birdie and her husband Allan live in Gaithersburg, Maryland where they both own their own businesses and work from home. Birdie is a dog trainer and, at present, their condo is not cutting it in terms of space and outdoor access. Birdie specializes in a board-and-train model, which means she and Allan have a delightful (though often noisy) assortment of hounds living with them at all times. She loves and prefers this mode of training, but the limited space in their condo–not to mention their attached neighbors–are making her business approach challenging. Allan’s company, which is a family business with his parents, took a hard hit during the pandemic and he and Birdie are concerned about its future viability. Let’s dive in to help this couple as they map out a plan for more space for dogs and potentially a new career for Allan.

What’s a Reader Case Study?

Birdie the dog trainer at work!

Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send in requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight and feedback in the comment section.

For an example, check out the last case study. Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. Visit this page for links to all updated Case Studies.

The Goal Of Reader Case Studies

Reader Case Studies are intended to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, geography, goals, careers, incomes, family compositions and more!

The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 63 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17k to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$300k to $2.9M+.

I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured gay, straight and trans people. I’ve featured men, women and non-binary folks. I’ve had cat people and dog people. I’ve featured folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland and France.

Perhaps the most amazing doggo photo ever

I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.

The goal is diversity and only YOU can help me achieve that by emailing me your story! If you haven’t seen your circumstances reflected in a Case Study, I encourage you to apply to be a Case Study participant by emailing mrs@frugalwoods.com.

Reader Case Study Guidelines

I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn.

There’s no room for rudeness here–the goal is to create a supportive environment where we all acknowledge that we’re human, we’re flawed, but we choose to be here together, workshopping our money and our lives with positive, proactive suggestions and ideas.

A disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises. I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.

With that I’ll let Birdie, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Birdie’s Story

Birdie + Allan

Hi there! I’m Birdie and I’ve been following Frugalwoods ever since I found out about the blog at FinCon 2015. My husband Allan and I live in Gaithersburg, MD, where we both own our own businesses and work from home. I have a dog training business and Allan has a business with his parents that publishes research and puts on conferences for a very niche industry. His parents are just transitioning into retirement and transferring the business to him this year.

Birdie’s Career Path

I’ve had 3 very different careers in the decade since I graduated college with an English degree: editing, marketing for a wealth management firm, and now dog training. Being a detail-oriented person, I really enjoyed editing and copyediting, but when I graduated, publications were folding left and right, so I took the first paying editing job I could find. It was at an investment newsletter company, where I got a crash course in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and even unusual options strategies as I edited the newsletters. I’d never learned anything about personal finance or investing in school or from my family, so I feel very lucky to have had that job.

Though my income was small, I started saving and investing right out of college… but as I learned more about investing, the more I realized the company I worked for was basically a scam. In addition to editing, I had to respond to the customer service emails of subscribers who were promised astronomical returns by deceptive marketing. Many subscribers followed very risky strategies that were totally inappropriate for them. I particularly remember one email where a grandfather told me how following the advice in one of the newsletters caused him to nearly deplete his granddaughter’s 529 account. I knew  there had to be a better way to deliver ETHICAL financial advice.

With the support of my fiance (now husband), I quit that job, got my Health and Life Insurance license and started studying for my Series 7. I thought working for a wealth advisory firm would be the best way to combine my interest in investing with my written skills. But the idea of selling to my friends and family just felt really icky and I realized it wasn’t right for me. Through trial and error in many interviews, I found out that the kind of firm I wanted to work for was not one where an insurance and Series 7 license would be of any use. I wanted to work for a fee-only, independent, fiduciary wealth management firm–and it took me nearly a year of being semi-employed to find the right firm. During that time I mucked stalls at a barn, wrote freelance articles for equestrian websites, and did a lot of fox hunting and trail riding–but that is a whole other story!

Dog Training!

Birdie the dog trainer in action

Once I finally found a fee-only, fiduciary, independent (and majority female) firm where I was proud to work, I was happy working there for a few years. But I found my role shifting more and more towards writing content, which just wasn’t what I wanted to do.

However, when I got a Golden Retriever puppy as a trail riding companion in 2017, I found that dog training scratched the same itch that horseback riding had for my entire life–and it was much more affordable! Before long my dog training hobby turned into a dog competition hobby (AKC obedience and tricks) and I began volunteer-teaching classes at my local AKC obedience club.

Neighbors started asking me for help with their dogs and in 2020, I started taking money for it. Some months, my dog training side hustle made even more than my full time job! Which was much-needed, because during the pandemic my husband’s business struggled and he had to take a hefty pay cut.

Our original plan was to wait to take the dog training business full-time until we had a property better suited to it. Right now we live in a condo with no yard, and I have 2-3 client dogs living with us at any given time… so I walk A LOT.

What feels most pressing right now? What brings you to submit a Case Study?

Birdie + prize-winning pup

Well, when I first applied to do a Case Study, my most pressing concern was when to quit my “real job” and train dogs full time. However, some circumstances with my “real job” gave me the kick in the pants I needed to quit and turn my side hustle into a full-time endeavor.

Luckily, we have ample savings and investments, and the training business is booming as many people working from home during Covid bought puppies. I’m consistently booked about 2 months in advance. So that’s job security for me! But also a lot of screamy barky dogs, which is bad for us and our neighbors on 3 sides.

Now, I want to get our finances in order to build a house that will allow both of our businesses to grow in the future. Right now the dogs are in our living room so if we have a howler, barker or a whiner, it is really difficult, and of course, walking up and down 4 flights of stairs 12 or more times a day (we live on the 3rd and 4th level of a townhouse duplex condo thing) is not efficient.

It’s good for my legs but I spend more time walking than I do training sometimes! I could do other types of training (lessons, day training in clients’ houses/yards, group classes) but I actually do enjoy the board-and-train style in my home.

Birdie and Allan’s House Hunt

We tried looking for houses this spring, but in the Montgomery County, MD area where my client base is, real estate is expensive, especially now. We couldn’t find anything in our budget ($650k or under) with a yard, an office for my husband, and training space for me that would be separate from the main living area. Well, we did find some but my husband doesn’t want to live in an older home and deal with repairs. So now we are interviewing architects to potentially build a  custom home on a lot or teardown. As it turns out, a teardown is likely to be less expensive–in our county, you have to pay at least $40,000 to build on an empty lot.

Allan’s Career

Birdie and Allan’s cat

The other challenge is that my husband’s business is not in a good place. It was very dependent on putting on industry conferences, which obviously couldn’t happen last year due to the pandemic, and they had to pivot to selling online events. Since it’s just him, his mom and his dad, they are able to be nimble and innovative, but my husband has more macro concerns for the future of the business.

As his industry consolidates with large companies buying up a lot of the smaller companies he used to sell to, he worries his company is becoming expendable. (ie. the larger companies will not really have an adverse effect if they don’t buy his company’s research, but when there were a lot of smaller companies they were a bigger fish).

This year his parents are officially giving the business to him and retiring. He will have to continue to pay them a salary for a few years, with certain stipulations and caps in place. The challenge of course is his ability to pay himself, his parents and grow the business. He would like to hire an employee, which could be either an online or in-person position.

He just got his MBA, but for his entire adult life, he has worked for the family business. The good news is that he has an amazing network and great relationships with leaders in his industry nationwide. I have no doubt he could easily find another job, but he’s never worked in a traditional office and I don’t think he would enjoy it. He also toys with the idea of going into law.

What’s the best part of your current lifestyle/routine?

Getting to do what I love, feeling like I have control over my day-to-day life and future, and not being subject to an employer’s needs. Not gonna lie, the entrepreneur life agrees with me!

As I wrote this, my husband came downstairs and said, completely unprompted, “Your business is the best thing that has ever happened to us.” We’re currently boarding an adult Dalmatian who keeps peeing in his kennel and Allan likes the fact that he can come downstairs anytime and discuss training ideas with me. Needless to say, I am SO lucky and grateful to have the husband that I do. I have no idea why he supports my weird and unreasonable life choices!

What’s the worst part of your current lifestyle/routine?

Puppers!

Screamy, whiny, poopy dogs in my living room. Not all of them are like that, but some are and it would be nice to have them in a separate area that I can’t hear while sleeping. I don’t want to rent kennel space though. I like the boutique, luxury “part of the family” training (and pricing) that I can offer with my board-and-train approach.

Being a luxury service provider, I know that downturns in the economy could be a threat to my income. But if dog training can thrive through Covid, and I continue to have a strong savings cushion, I am not overly worried.

Of greater concern to me is the uncertainty surrounding the future of my husband’s business. But then again, the future is always uncertain!

Where Birdie and Allan Want to be in 10 Years:

Finances:

  • We would like to be able to retire early and work by choice. However, we don’t have a particular age in mind for this.
  • We are definitely not strict budgeters–we do best with our system of:
    • 1 month of cash reserves in checking
    • 6 months of cash reserves in savings
    • Everything else invested.
  • I have a great relationship with my former employer and they still manage our investments without charging us anything, using a low cost, index-based approach.

Lifestyle:

  • Birdie on horseback

    I would like to be pretty much doing what I am now! Just in a space that allows for more work/life separation, and would allow clients to come to me rather than me go to them for private lessons.

  • I would like to be able to get back into horseback riding again at some point. That was a big part of my life for 15 years, but it is not a priority right now as I am growing the business.
  • In the nearer term, I’d like to get into some type of protection sports with a Malinois or a German Shepherd.
  • Allan and I aren’t going to have children–we love the DINK life!

Career:

  • I would eventually like to have employees and be more of a business owner than a day-to-day dog trainer.
  • I actually enjoy the marketing and strategy aspect of the business.
  • I’d like to be able to focus my training more on competing my own dogs and particular clients I want to work with.

Birdie and Allan’s Finances

Income

Item Amount Notes
Allan’s net monthly salary $5,704 Allan is set to take over the company from his parents this fall so his salary will increase significantly.
Birdie’s monthly business distribution $3,000 This YTD my dog training business made an average of $9,000 per month after taxes and expenses, but I don’t take that much as salary. I’m in the process of switching to the “Profit First” business envelope budgeting system.
Monthly subtotal: $8,704
Annual total: $104,448

Mortgage Details

Item Outstanding loan balance Interest Rate Loan Period and Terms Equity Purchase price and year
Mortgage on condo $253,403 3.63% 30 year fixed rate $110k $360k; purchased in 2011

Debts: $0

Assets

Item Amount Notes Interest/type of securities held Name of bank/brokerage
Allan’s workplace retirement plan $150,000 Allan’s dad used to manage this and had a bunch of individual stock positions which scared the pants off both of us; thankfully that is changing with the transfer of ownership of the business
Fidelity joint taxable brokerage account $86,614 Passive index funds on the equity side, actively managed mutual funds on the bond side. 80% equities; 20% fixed income Fidelity
401k from past job $71,220 Same as above Fidelity
Personal Savings Account $25,806 Emergency fund Capital One
Fidelity Roth IRA $19,998 Same as above Fidelity
Axos Business Checking $19,218 Axos Bank
Personal Checking Account $11,979 Income goes into this account and we pay the credit cards from this account Capital One
Cash balance plan $10,295 Same as above Schwab
Fun money $66 Allan and I both get $375/mo “fun money” to do whatever we want with. I usually spend mine. Capital One
Total: $395,196

Vehicles

Vehicle make, model, year Valued at Mileage Paid off?
Subaru Impreza 2018 $17,800 40,000 Yes
Subaru BRZ 2013 $15,000 50,000 Yes
Total: $32,800

Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Mortgage $1,820
Groceries $600 We aim for $150/week, sometimes it’s less
Birdie’s health insurance $313 Paid via the business pre-tax. Allan’s insurance is paid for by his business.
Eating out $294
Vacation $271 In non-pandemic years we usually go on one or two family vacations (inexpensive) and one big vacation like Mexico or London
HappyNest $200 Laundry wash-n-fold service. This REALLY helps our marriage because I hate folding clothes so I procrastinate and then get frustrated that my husband doesn’t do it unless I ask him
Lifetime Fitness $199 Going to the gym is one of our favorite ways to spend time together
Subscriptions $175 All recurring subscriptions are paid on our Fidelity Cashback card: Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Pet’s Best dog insurance. Paid off in full monthly
Gas $175 Allan drives very little and Birdie drives A TON. I’m starting to pay for gas through the business pretax because almost all of the driving is for dog stuff.
Cleaning person 1x/mo $120 TBH I think we should ask the cleaning person to come more often…
Personal care $114 Haircuts, Walgreens
Cell phone – AT&T $110 I know you’ll recommend the cheaper cell plan…but the business pays for it pre-tax, and I absolutely need reliable service for safety since I am often walking dogs and teaching lessons alone. Allan’s cell phone is paid for by his business
Pet food $100
Gifts (Christmas, birthdays, etc.) $100
Imperfect Foods box $100 Produce and baked goods
Car insurance $94 paid annually
Veterinary $83
Medications $40
Dental insurance – Birdie $34
Electricity bill $34
Clothing $33 Allan buys clothes rarely and I usually buy clothes once per year, used from ThredUp
Dog insurance $33 This is through Pet’s Best. We use it as a “catastrophic” plan. It has a $1000 deductible so for well visits and minor health issues less than $1000, we pay out of pocket.
Books $20 Usually get 1-2 Kindle books/month
Monthly subtotal: $5,062
Annual total: $60,744

Credit Card Strategy

Card Name Rewards Type? Bank/card company
Fidelity Cashback Cashback to investment accounts Fidelity
Capital One Quicksilver Cashback Capital One
American Express Business Cash Cashback American Express

Note: these credit card links are affiliate links. 

Birdie’s Questions for You:

  1. What financial pitfalls do I need to watch out for as a small business owner? Any to-do’s and to-don’ts?
  2. Should we build/buy a bigger, more expensive house (with two “wings” for each of our businesses to grow) or just focus on a house that has space for the dog business, and expand Allan’s office space later if needed?
  3. I’m not sure whether to invest on a monthly or quarterly basis using dollar-cost-averaging, or to invest at year-end with a lump sum. My investor self balks at the idea of not saving monthly… but my business owner self wants to keep cash reserves just in case of a large tax bill. What should I do?
  4. If anyone has experience working with an architect or building a house that has a WFH/home business element, I am open to advice and lessons learned!

Liz Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Dogs in training

I am so impressed by Birdie’s determination and success in navigating a non-traditional career path! She had a passion for dog training, she began training as a side hustle and eventually built her business into a full-time, well paying, exciting job. Nicely done!

I also want to commend Birdie and Allan for their prudent financial decisions over the years: their ability to stay out of debt, to buy a home and to invest!

I think Birdie is an exemplary example of how to transition from a traditional job to self-employment: start doing it because you love it, start charging some money for it, start charging more money, expand your services, see what the market will bear and then–once you’re making actual money–quit the “real” job. Alrighty, let’s dig into Birdie’s questions.

Birdie’s Question #1: What financial pitfalls do I need to watch out for as a small business owner?

My answer to this one is brief: hire a CPA who specializes in small businesses. It’s a lot easier (and better) to set things up right the first time than to try and fix unintentional mistakes later on. Since Birdie’s business has grown from a hobby to a lucrative endeavor, it’d be a good idea to confer with a CPA to ensure things like registrations, licenses, insurance and business insurance, liability, etc all match the current level of the business since it appears to have grown quite quickly.

I think it would be money well spent to hire a CPA to advise her on all of the above and on how to structure the business, particularly if she wants to bring on employees.

A CPA should also be able to advise her on how to structure the purchase of a property that’ll be both a home and a business.

Birdie’s Question #2: Should we build/buy a bigger, more expensive house (with two “wings” for each of our businesses to grow) or just focus on a house that has space for the dog business, and expand Allan’s office space later if needed?

Birdie on horseback

A major question I have here is whether or not Birdie needs to be located right where her customers are? Now that she’s built a base of customers (and has a waiting list!), I wonder if she could move farther away from town? It sounds like the ideal set-up for Birdie and Allan would be a rural, or semi-rural, property with lots of space, outbuildings, and the potential to build more outbuildings if needed.

The constraints of a high cost-of-living area will always butt against Birdie’s need for more space. Plus, it seems like an expensive and frustrating endeavor to try and shoehorn themselves into a more urban location. Gaithersburg is essentially a suburb of Washington, DC and so it’s unlikely housing prices will ever decrease in a meaningful way. It seems like she’s already done the hard work of establishing her business and so, at this stage, it might not be an impediment to live farther out. It sounds like they need some land!

Reasons Why Rural Might Work (in my uninformed opinion):

  • Since she’s built a base of customers, I imagine she’s getting great word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Birdie also mentioned that she enjoys the marketing aspect of her business and most marketing happens online anyway, making her location less important. It’s not like she’s reliant upon foot traffic to drum up business.
  • Since she offers the boutique board-and-train model, I assume dogs are staying with her for a number of days, making the need for transport less of an issue.
  • I also wonder about playing up the boutique angle of training dogs on a bucolic farm–the marketing copy writes itself!
  • Could Birdie offer a doggie shuttle service to and from the DC area to make it more convenient for her clients? Again, since I assume the dogs are with her for a week or so, this wouldn’t need to be a daily drive.

It may be that Birdie and Allan don’t want to leave Gaithersburg, but I’m hard-pressed to see how the money will work out for the amount of space it seems they need. Going rural could solve a number of these challenges and present them with a lot more land to work with. In terms of building, in my woefully limited experience, it is always more expensive to build new than it is to buy an existing house–particularly if you’re going rural.

Additionally, under her longterm goals, Birdie mentioned that she’d like to get back into horseback riding and also pursue protection sports with a Malinois or a German Shepherd. Both of those activities could, again, be easily enacted on rural land. Just saying…

Another question I have on this topic is how much the condo is actually worth? I am guessing they have more equity in there than reported.

Allan’s Job

Doggo!

Birdie didn’t ask about this, but I sensed a good deal of uncertainty and strain surrounding Allan’s job. I’m going to quote Birdie to Birdie here:

[Allan remarked,] “Your business is the best thing that has ever happened to us.”…Allan likes the fact that he can come downstairs anytime and discuss training ideas with me.

Furthermore:

…my husband has more macro concerns for the future of the business. As his industry consolidates with large companies buying up a lot of the smaller companies he used to sell to, he worries his company is becoming expendable.

And finally:

He just got his MBA… I have no doubt he could easily find another job, but he’s never worked in a traditional office and I don’t think he would enjoy it. He also toys with the idea of going into law.

While I gather Allan needs to remain with the family business for at least the next several years in order to fulfill his obligations to his parents, I wonder if he’s considered winding the business down or selling it? From my outsider’s perspective, I don’t hear that Allan has any real passion for this work and it also seems like a somewhat sticky situation to be beholden to his parent’s vision of the business for the rest of his life. While it’s clear Allan has learned a lot and thrived in this role, I wonder if it’s his true passion?

My pressing question: why not do the dog business together full-time?

With an MBA and years of experience working in a small family business, it seems Allan would be a tremendous asset to Birdie’s business. Plus, with his help, they might be able to move through the waitlist of clients more quickly and generate more revenue. Birdie and Allan might not want to pursue this, and I get that it wouldn’t happen tomorrow, but I wonder very seriously about working towards this goal in the next five or ten years.

Birdie’s Question #3: I’m not sure whether to invest on a monthly or quarterly basis using dollar-cost-averaging, or to invest at year-end with a lump sum. My investor self balks at the idea of not saving monthly… but my business owner self wants to keep cash reserves just in case of a large tax bill. What should I do?

Prize winner. Look at those eyes!!!!

Birdie’s right: on one hand, it makes the most sense to smooth out your investments over the course of a year by investing monthly. It ensures you’re always adding to your portfolio and it buffers you against accidentally buying a ton of stock at the height of the market.

But on the other hand, Birdie’s correct that owning your own business has the potential for unexpected large expenses and it’s always easier to have cash on hand than to need to liquidate investments and pay capital gains taxes.

Since Birdie and Allan plan to buy a new home/property in the near term, I’d say keep the money liquid for now. When things are up in the air like this, it’s often best to just sit on your cash. Once they’re settled in their new place, then they can think about investing more aggressively.

Financial Overview

Birdie is super financially literate, so I don’t have a ton to say–just a few things for her to consider:

  1. Solo 401k. Now that Birdie’s business is a legit, lucrative thing, she needs to set up a self-employed retirement account. There are a number of different options for self-employed folks and I encourage her to speak with her financial advisor and also her soon-to-be-hired small business CPA.
  2. Combine and consolidate banks. This is more of a personal preference, but I’m wondering why they have money spread across four different institutions? I find it a lot easier and more straightforward to consolidate everything under the same institution.
  3. Consider rolling over the old 401k. The main reason to do this is so that you have control over what it’s invested in. Since Birdie is a savvy investor, I think she should consider doing this.

Well Done on the Credit Cards!

Birdie in action

I also want to mention how wise Birdie and Allan’s credit card strategy is. Utilizing cash back cards and a business cash back card is a brilliant–and easy–way to earn money when you spend money (affiliate links).

For more on how to create a sound credit card strategy, check out this post.

Summary:

  1. Hire a small business CPA (if she hasn’t already) to ensure the business is set up correctly and beneficially.
  2. Hang onto the extra liquid cash until the house buying process is complete.
  3. Open a solo 401k, consider consolidating to one financial institution, consider rolling over the old 401k.
  4. Start exploring the idea of a more rural home: what areas might work? Is it feasible to be geographically distant from her clients? Would a doggie shuttle service be viable? Start looking at what’s on the market and consider how that might work.
  5. Would Allan ever consider winding down his family’s business and joining Birdie full-time? Discuss.
  6. Enjoy the awesome life they’ve created together!

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Birdie? We’ll both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

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65 Responses

  1. caryatis says:

    >We tried looking for houses this spring, but in the Montgomery County, MD area where my client base is, real estate is expensive, especially now. We couldn’t find anything in our budget ($650k or under) with a yard, an office for my husband, and training space for me that would be separate from the main living area.

    I second the suggestion to move to a rural area (either in MD or VA). There are a TON of houses in Montgomery County, MD for less than 650k, so the fact that this person couldn’t find anything for less than that makes me think they are looking for a LOT of space. Which is understandable, with a lot of dogs. I can’t imagine any neighbor would appreciate having a large number of loud, poorly trained dogs nearby. Check the zoning laws before you buy to ensure that a commercial dog training operation is legal.

    • Nora says:

      We are looking for rural land to build and MANY have even more deed restrictions than zoning – the most common is no commercial home based businesses unless they are home office based. Check zoning and the deed details!

      • Birdie says:

        Thanks for the tip about deed restrictions; I didn’t know about that! Allan has spent so much time looking into zoning. I would die of boredom.

    • Birdie says:

      Well, even $650k in Montgomery Co will barely get you a house with a backyard! We’ve tried. Zoning is EXTREMELY restrictive as well so we have been looking into Frederick County!

  2. Lori says:

    Hi Birdie – just a couple thoughts:

    1) have you looked at real estate surrounding Frederick Md? You might get a bit more ‘bang for your buck’ plus you could definitely appeal to customers coming up 15 from the Leesburg area. Another thought might be to look at the area between Leesburg and Winchester. Either slightly more rural option might give you more options if you want expansion land (ie to build office space for your husband, to have additional outdoor or maybe indoor training space and/or to possible build an obedience/agility training course).
    2) have you given thought to creating/expanding your social media presence? With your writing experience, you could easily move into online videos, courses, books, etc.

    • Birdie says:

      That’s exactly where we’re looking! We want to be in MD because I love that the agricultural area near the Potomac has been much better preserved in MD than in NoVa.

      • Laura says:

        Has your husband considered being a paralegal? You get to do a lot of the research and draft arguments for lawyers, but it is way cheaper to get into, and if he hates it, he’s not out much money or time. Different states have different certification requirements, but it might be worth looking into. Plus, the job market for paralegals has been better than for lawyers in the past.

  3. Liz says:

    As someone who rescued a dog during the pandemic and is looking for a board and train situation, rural is fine. I don’t mind driving ~2 hours to drop my dog off so I don’t think rural would affect business as long as you have a strong word of mouth and good SEO.

  4. Joyce says:

    I was watching a real estate program on HGTV and there were two examples on homes that had been renovated to accommodate in-home day care businesses (one partially, one completely). The point of the program was that the homes are extremely difficult to sell and recommended renovations to make them more marketable. They both had large open areas and fenced in yards. After reading about you, I thought one of these homes would be perfect for your business. So, maybe keep your eyes open for this type of home. You look regal riding a horse and your dog training business sounds like a perfect fit.

    • Birdie says:

      Haha, thank you I included that picture of me on the chestnut horse (more coppery color) because that was one of my favorite moments. I got thwacked in the head by a tree branch and got a big cut on my nose. I felt so badass. The other photo on the bay horse (darker, more brown) was my off the track Thoroughbred. He taught me so much about persistence because we both had “my way or the highway” personalities. Loved him.

  5. Annie says:

    Knowing nothing about the real estate in your area, I am not qualified to offer an opinion that is specific but do want to echo Mrs. Frugalwoods’ thought about potential for future trouble with neighbors if you stay in an urban environment. You might not have an HOA. You might find reasonable neighbors. But the latter could change at any time. We have lived next door for a time to someone who fostered a lot of dogs and the barking was near-constant and very tough to live with. I am sure your situation would not be exactly the same. We tolerated it as cheerfully as we could — they were doing such a good thing! —but I will not say we were sad when those neighbors moved on. If you can get more land around you, it would really buy you the freedom to embed the business into your life with a minimum of neighborly friction in the long-term.

  6. Abigail says:

    “He also toys with the idea of going into law.”

    I strongly suggest avoiding law school unless you cannot imagine a fulfilling and happy life any other way. Certainly don’t consider it without a full ride from a school and talk to a LOT of lawyers before making a leap, including folks who got a JD and then decided to go a different way.

    • Carol Wayne says:

      I agree…I work at an elementary school as a school librarian and 2 of our teachers are former attorneys….after all that work and money they decided they really did not like the work. I also have a family member who went to law school hoping to do environmental law and ended up doing divorces and wills because the law school loans came due…that is a lot of money, time and work.

      I live in the DFW area and just got a rescue dog…we are looking at a boarding school situation for him. Being in a more rural area will give you a lot more flexibility and a lot less stress about worrying about your neighbors!! Good Luck!!

    • Birdie says:

      I completely agree. Everyone I know who is a lawyer has a terrible work/life balance! He just likes that type of research and arguments.

      • Michelle says:

        He could always volunteer & help out a non-profit organization in his future “spare” time 😉 with his passion for law, research, etc., & put that passion to good use, I know from working in a few non-profits years ago before I had a private psychotherapy practice (since closed) that this was an area that was lacking. My Mom’s been in a nursing facility & we are working to get her back home. Seeing all that goes on in facilities certainly got me into researching elder care & which wasn’t on my radar before. Nothing I’d want to do for a career as I’ll be caring for my Mom but I did find out I’m a good advocate 🙂 I’m actually selling online right now & so all that college & I’m right back at the retail work I did in high school through grad school to pay for college, except for myself online, lol. Take your time & slowly process this out 🙂 you’ll do great no matter what I can tell!!

    • Lynne says:

      ditto this

    • Honey Smith says:

      I came here to say the same thing. I saw that sentence and thought “Danger Will Robinson!”

    • DT says:

      Agree with this. My prior career was managing law firm recruiting for over a decade and while you do find passionate, brilliant people committed to the practice, it is often grueling, especially in big law. That said, there are lots of people who find rewarding careers in boutique firms, public sector, nonprofits, and in-house roles at corporations (usually need law firm training first, though).

      My husband worked for several years at a large law firm and now he has his dream job for a global company as GC. The training young lawyers receive from firms is unparalleled, but the hours and culture are tough to endure.

      The economics of law school ($$$) and the job market make it tough for new lawyers to take on lower paid but possibly more balanced careers right out of school, however, if Allan does great on the LSAT and can get a scholarship to a strong school in your region, he would have flexibility and possibly avoid student loans.

      I would recommend only investing in a school either in the top 25 (ranked via US News) and/or a strong local school with a solid reputation. You’ve got Georgetown not too far away. Employment prospects for new lawyers are unfortunately super competitive and credentials and grades are still huge factors, even as the profession strives to become more inclusive. His background as a small business owner would also help him stand out from the crowd.

      If he’s serious, encourage him to have a lot of real conversations with attorneys who have careers he admires and get into the real details – hours, pay, challenges, why they do it, and how they got there. There are people happy with work-life balance in the legal profession, but more often outside of large law firms. Good luck to you both!

  7. Tucker says:

    Hi Birdie! What an amazing business you’ve built up! I agree with the other commenters that moving further out would still allow you to capitalize on the DMV market. Maybe even make it a niche thing by including interesting things near your new home for clients on pick up/drop off day. For instance taking your now trained dog to a farmer’s market or walking/hiking trail or favorite dog friendly cafes/restaurants? Also here to encourage you to get a library card and do Libby if you haven’t already! DC and I believe Fairfax have reciprocity for Montgomery County residents so that’s three robust library systems to put in holds for! If you find the library is too long maybe kindle unlimited would be a better deal? I think it’s $9.99 now.

    • Emily B says:

      I’ll second all these suggestions (love the Libby app! You can get magazines through it as well). Plus I’ll add that if you had the acreage and wanted to in the future, you could have a guest cabin/yurt/tiny house for clients to come stay for a weekend and work with you and their dog and it could also be a cool AirBnB rental that could potentially drive business to the dog training and vice versa.

      • Torie says:

        I was also thinking a place people could some and stay for a weekend training with their dog would be great! A few tiny house or the ability to camp with their dog and attend training classes would be awesome! You could also rent out the spaces for retreats or do the AirBnB thing when you don’t have trainings scheduled.

  8. Pat says:

    Just a thought to include appreciation in your condo’s equity. It looks like the equity and mortgage together equal the purchase price, and I cannot imagine a place in Gaithersburg hasn’t appreciated at all in 10 years.

  9. Anne says:

    As a small business owner (or for freelancers) you also have the option to set up a Roth SE 401k. This can be great for years that your income is lower, or if it is moderate now but likely to grow a lot in the future. I researched it extensively a couple of years ago and E*TRADE was the only option to set one up without large annual custodial fees.

  10. Laura says:

    For your question about investing regularly or sporadically, I think that non-monthly is fine. My husband owns his business and he invests whenever cash builds up above a specific amount. Sometimes its every month and sometimes (when he’s bought equipment for example) it may go 8 or 9 months between. I think as long as you have some sort of threshold amount to say is “excess” depending on your current goals, it works.

  11. Raf says:

    I know compared to everything else, it’s small. But as someone who switched from AT&T to Consumer Cellular, I went from paying about what she’s paying per month to under $70 (with AARP discount. I’m 43yo fyi). And coverage isn’t an issue since the sim I have uses the AT&T network (with CC, it’s uses either the AT&T or T-Mobile network). The extra $480 in savings per year can be put to use elsewhere.

  12. Susan says:

    Birdie-
    Your story is awesome! As your partner looks long term, I second the “don’t go into law” sentiment. My husband is the only person I have met that enjoys being a lawyer. However, even with his undergrad paid for, he has 150k is law school loans. That was from a well respected state school, not private! Also, working remotely is not nearly as common in the law profession. If your partner enjoys being home, that could be a challenge. We have been looking for remote opportunities and they are few and far between. If you are a new attorney, I would guess they would be even slimmer. The work load is intense and stressful, even as an in-house attorney. When he worked for a private firm with billable hour requirements, it was insane. Good-bye personal life, even after getting through law school. Obviously, if your husband has an intense passion for the law, that may feel worthwhile. I would warn you that it will take you off your track financially by many years….
    Best to you both on this crazy journey we call life. 😀

  13. Elizabeth Whitmore says:

    Good suggestions about more rural. Definitely look into the zoning before buying.My other suggestion is build a house with a walk in closet so nothing needs folding and save $200 a month. LOL

  14. JD says:

    Our niece is a dog trainer in Ohio, and loves it. They do day care and board/training as well, but they rent a facility for day time use, and there are several employees, so they might have one or two client dogs in their home at most, nights only. I too have to wonder how long the neighbors will put up with the dogs if they stay urban. I love dogs, but I don’t enjoy the sound of a pack of dogs carrying on all day. That said, the restrictions in an area such as where they live might make their choices for a new home fairly limited. Have they consulted with a real estate agent or the county/city offices in charge of zoning?

    I would never want to cause a family rift, but: my take on the handing down of the family business is that Allan is apparently locked in to supplying his parents with income for a few years in consideration for the receipt of their business. But, honestly, is he getting a business? It was hit hard by the pandemic and the future for it looks shaky right now. When the agreement was made for him to take it and support them for a few more years, was the business in better shape? If it folds, what are his obligations to his parents? Would they be better off to sell and split the proceeds? In my view, being handed a possibly dying business with the requirement that he keep it until his parents get what they want out of it is not a recipe for success. If Birdie and Allan don’t have a lawyer handling the transfer for them, I would suggest they get one, at least to review the situation if nothing else.

    • Kim says:

      I totally agree with you re the family business. My thoughts exactly!

    • Victoria says:

      I came down to the comments to say this exact thing. You’re not getting a ‘free’ business. If Allan’s salary is expected to go up considerably, then I expect his parents will be getting a hefty monthly ‘salary’ once they retire. That’s what buying the business costs you both, and potentially you’ll owe this even if the business goes bust or you decide to shutter it. I imagine changing the plan may cause family ructions but I strongly recommend you rethink this. Especially if you haven’t already sought legal and tax advice about it.

      It doesn’t seem realistic that your property is worth exactly what it was 10 years ago? Rural sounds like the way to go for you both, and if you get the dog business bigger you may be able to have your own horse on site. You’re paying for cleaning and laundry so I’d consider those when looking rural, as you’re less likely to be able to find help.

      Really well done though, you’ve made sensible financial decisions that are working well for you.

  15. SJ says:

    I was a dog walker/pet sitter before the pandemic and last year we bought a special rural-in-the-city 3.5 acre property (18 miles east of downtown Seattle, but only a few miles from major suburbs of Renton, Bellevue and Issaquah) with kennels for 20 dogs that had been in service since 1952. 2 bedroom house. Has fruit, nut trees and grapes. Wetlands with beavers. We thought it was enchanting and we had some inheritance so we bought it thinking we could AirB&B the home while running a little hobby farm and a dog kenneling business. But after caring for just one dog on the property during Christmas I realized I’m truly and utterly burned out of the schedule involved in caring for dogs. I’ve missed all major holidays since 2014 and I’ve lost making memories with my nearly 15 and 18 year old sons. Additionally, I’m having a ton of anxiety over having a property that I don’t actually live in (what if such-and-such happens?). Turns out I’m not as adventurous as I thought I could be. So, just a year later we’re putting it up for sale. It WAS however a great idea and would have worked REALLY WELL if I hadn’t lost my motivation and focus. I think you should strive to find something like this property, but one that can accommodate both you and your husband’s businesses. I have had clients that would drop off their dogs for training for a week or month at a time (NOT me.. I just did the caregiving). Clients WILL travel for both training and kenneling if they trust the provider.

    • Birdie says:

      Aww, I’m sorry to hear about the burnout. The property sounds idyllic (though probably a TON of work). I have heard many stories like yours and it has made me realize how important it is to structure my business the way I want, not the way clients want. If I don’t want to work on a holiday, I don’t take clients.

  16. Katelyn says:

    I love seeing the horses! I grew up riding horses competitively and hope to get back into it next year in my new town. But, gosh, they are expensive! I agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods recommendations. I own two small businesses and will be buying the consulting firm I work for full-time next year. You need a CPA. They are worth their weight in gold. You also need a self-employed retirement account, as well as that, can help lower your taxable income too. As far as your cell phone bill, I use a prepaid plan through AT&T for $45 a month. I have the same service I would on their normal plans but half the cost. It may be worth looking into it.

    As far as your husband’s plans, make sure everything is in writing about the transfer of ownership of his parent’s company and I would have a lawyer look at it. They may also want to discuss what could happen if your husband decides to sell it to someone else or dissolve the company in the future and find a new job. Your husband may feel obligated to take on the family business if that’s all he knows, but maybe his passion is elsewhere. There’s a lot of unknowns in small businesses. It worth be worth it to look into hiring a business coach/mentor for either you and/or your husband to see where you could grow or pivot your businesses as needed.

    • Susan says:

      Agree on this transition team to help with the husband’s small business. A local extension small business development center should have someone with expertise in family business transition. It’s both financial and emotional – such a tough mix. So getting help before all this happens is a good choice.

  17. Spaceman Spiff says:

    I agree with the Frugalwoods lady. 😉
    I was thinking outbuilding, but didn’t connect that to “rural”, which makes total sense.

    One expense I didn’t see listed is liability insurance for her business. If two dogs get in a fight and one or both get injured while under her care, that could be a big issue. Also, an umbrella policy on top of that would be a good idea. Umbrella insurance is cheap.

    Solo401K is an excellent idea, which would also reduce her tax liability, as it is funded with pre-tax dollars, lowering her overall net income.

    Last, if the industry that the husband is involved in is consolidating, it might be worth selling now, versus later, if they could get a better price now. Might want to broach that with the parents.

    Good luck!

    • Birdie says:

      Oh yes. Liability insurance was the first business purchase I made after starting my LLC! We do have umbrella insurance for the house I think; I will have to check on that.

  18. Heidi Louise says:

    Be sure you have good disability insurance for yourself. Your work is very physical, and an accident to you could set you up for a lot of adjustments to how you could work with the dogs. Crutches or a wheel chair would make things very difficult.
    Have you got the word out that you are looking for a new location? Like with local veterinarians or others who would know of animal trainers who might be retiring or selling their facilities?
    Good luck!

  19. Beth says:

    Just a different thought if you decided you wanted to stay in your area. You could look for a commercial building that has living quarters above it. I know some cities allow for that setup. It also may provide more choice than what you are currently seeing in the residential market. Good luck.

  20. Birdie says:

    Mrs. Frugalwoods, thank you SO much for the thoughtful and creative advice. I’m tracking with you on the rural idea, and since we emailed together, my husband has done a LOT of research into zoning. Staying where we are is not going to work. In fact we looked at a lot to build on yesterday in Frederick Co! Since I would like to have a training area separate but connected to the main house, we are looking into a semi-custom build.

    I do have a business CPA that I love and I will talk about all of these ideas with her. Definitely starting a retirement plan for myself.

    The city-to-country doggie shuttle is genius. I think I have to remind myself that I am not my clients. I would never drive 2 hours just for regular dog training like sit, down, come, stay, leave it. But I guess that’s why I’m a trainer and they’re not!

    I have told Allan so many times to get a lawyer involved in the business succession plan, and to get everything in writing…but with family businesses it’s so difficult because it’s emotional. I’ll keep gently prodding. I like the idea of selling it; not sure if he has considered it.

    Your idea about going into business together is a good one. But I didn’t mention that Allan’s parents and mine are both divorced…and the fact that his parents had a business together is a big reason why they split. They hired Allan while he was in college to help keep things together during that difficult time, and he just stayed working there! We’re both very independent and like having “our own thing”, though of course we help each other. He likes to train but just for fun.

    To answer a few of your other questions: we considered putting the condo on the market this spring and we could likely get about $460k for it! 😯

    All of our personal checking/debit is at Capital One, though we’re moving away from the Quiksilver card and to the Apple card because the app is so much better. (Actually categorizes spending correctly, unlike a lot of other apps I’ve tried). It’s also a cashback card.

    The Axos bank is for the business, and I got it because it had great reviews on Nerdwallet…but I wouldn’t recommend it; their online interface is straight out of 1995. I have 2 business banks now (one local, and Axos) because I follow the Profit First system. It’s like an envelope budgeting system for businesses.

    Again, thank you so much and thanks to your readers for the constructive ideas!

    • JD says:

      Not to harp on this, but I recommended a lawyer for the business transition in my comment, and I must say, I do even more now, hearing about Allan’s parents. The business already contributed to the breakup of his parents’ marriage; imagine the transfer breaking up the entire family! Getting the transfer written in a legal contract can prevent more conflicts than it will create. Eveyone needs to KNOW the expectations, terms, fall backs and what-ifs from the start, before signing. If his parents refuse to get or sign a legal contract, I would – and this is me speaking only for myself – consider the deal off, and find another career. I’ve seen these kind of hand-shake deals destroy family relationships before. I don’t recommend them.
      I truly wish you the best! I hope you and Allan will discuss this thoroughly.

      • Erica says:

        I will second that legal contracts can prevent conflicts and misunderstanding. All things should be considered. My mother passed away last month. What about your situation? What if someone died? Then what would happen to these handshake agreements?

      • Victoria says:

        I commented further up about Allan’s business and then reading your response here I’m posting again to say please, please, please speak to a lawyer. I don’t know your relationship with your in laws but in your position I would even volunteer to be the bad guy so Allan can blame it on you, or your financials advisors (us 🙂 ). It would be worth it, to me, to not risk what might be hundreds of thousands. Your in laws have already shown that they suck at handling the emotional aspects of the family business and maybe Allan can use that angle even, it split up one relationship and he doesn’t want it to do the same to you.

        Sorry if I sound preachy, as I’m only a stranger on the internet, but you’ve been so sensible with your financial decisions to date, I’d hate to see you lose out now.

  21. Jane says:

    Birdie, you actually helped me. I live in a home with two small dogs (one a barker). Keep thinking about moving to a condo or townhouse, but worry the dogs’ barking would be unbearable to neighbors. Now I am sure it would!
    My neighbor’s dog sometimes wears an anti-bark collar. There is no shock or anything, but it kind of makes a humming sound if she barks for a long time. Have you heard of those? Also, what about using a white noise machine at night for boarders?
    You are a person after my own heart regarding dogs and training. My papillon has done agility, nose work, etc., although we’ve never gotten to competition point. Agility seems very popular where I live; serious people will need to keep up with classes for years! (Also, I once had a Belgian Tervuren. Beautiful, but my least-favorite dog ever. Went back to retrievers.) Good luck!

    • Birdie says:

      Yep, absolutely recommend a bark collar, white noise machine and earplugs. The dogs are not always loud and annoying but when they are, they are. I recommend the Ecollar Technologies or the DogWatch bark collars. Use at a level 1 or 2, not the progressive setting (this can just whip dogs up into a panic). Both allow for one “alert” bark before activating. I can’t imagine a humming noise being enough to stop a barker. An electronic stim is better because it is very clear to the dog the cause and effect between bark and stim. Many dogs actually find vibration more aversive than an electronic stim anyway and practically jump out of their skin.

      There’s your free training advice of the day. Lol

    • Caitie says:

      Just my two cents as a training-obsessed dog owner…I have to put in a plug for trying a positive reinforcement (+R) approach too. Many dogs who are given some kind of aversive correction (even “just” an e-collar) actually just become scared or anxious about the behavior and suppress it, rather than actually learning to change their behavior over time. This can eventually lead to an explosion of the behavior, and then we’re all frustrated! I know some people think this is overkill, but I try to make sure I’d feel comfortable using the same techniques when trying to address a problematic behavior in my child (and I wouldn’t want to shock/hum/buzz my child every time they talked!). When I first got dogs I used aversive tools that I didn’t even think of as “bad”, like making startling noises, yelling, etc., before taking classes with a +R curriculum. The trainer said something that changed how I saw it all: “Don’t tell them ‘no,’ tell them what you want them to do instead.” See if you can figure out what triggers your dog to bark and give them something else to do in those moments. While it can often feel like it takes more time, using positive reinforcement to reinforce the behavior you do want – like looking at a trigger without barking – does actually work.

      https://karenpryoracademy.com/the-abcs-of-barking/

  22. Hi Birdie! That is an awesome business I’m glad you are making it happen! I grew up in Maryland so I understand the real estate struggle (especially now!) but I do think Frederick could be a good option. I also have loud/difficult cats and understand the need for a separate space for pets lol! One of the other bloggers I follow got a pre-fab shed to make a studio in the yard. The one she got was 10×12, heated and cooled, and around $20,000 but I think there are different models. They come as only pieces and you have to build it yourself but I believe her husband did it without any previous construction experience. That could be a good option if you don’t find a house with the setup you like! I put the link to her post below!

    https://www.risingshining.com/2020/11/planning-house-renovations.html

  23. Heather says:

    Just a couple of small things – I agree that you should check out a library app to replace your kindle books. I’ve found Hoopla to be the greatest (no wait times), and Libby has also worked for me (however, my library tends to have wait times for popular books). Also, I would reconsider the phone service. MVNOs use the the same service providers that we know and rely on. I used Straighttalk for a long time on AT&T’s network and had zero issues. I now use Verizon Prepaid though because I could get even more data for less – I pay $25 for 5GB of high-speed data (I believe their unlimited plan is $50) because I work from home a lot and just use wifi at home. And even if for some reason I run out of my 5 GB of high-speed data, I still have data, it’s just slower. So there are definitely reliable options out there that could cut your bill in at least half.

  24. Janice Z says:

    It sounds like you have a solid dog training business though you may want to think about some professional education/credentials for yourself, if you don’t have any formal education. Dog training is an unlicensed profession in the US though there are more and more states looking to license trainers. Having credentials can be a big marketing plus in a new location. There are various high-quality, force free dog training educational programs that are online, such as the Academy for Dog Trainers (my alma mater) and the Karen Pryor Academy.

    And no, anti-bark collars are ineffective and inhumane. They punish the dog rather than manage the behavior and most dogs keep barking through the shock or vibration.

  25. DJ says:

    I’m still very new to this community, so have no financial advice to offer as I’m still learning myself. But, I do live near you in Montgomery County, MD and will need to board my not well trained dog in the coming months. I know this might be a long shot, but if you’re open to it and Mrs. Frugalwoods doesn’t mind sharing my info with you, perhaps we can connect and I can potentially become a client?

    Either way, best of luck with your business and financial goals!

  26. Beth says:

    So I am an architect, and can certainly attest to how valuable having a design professional can be. Certainly much more helpful than most contractors, who rarely have the vision and creativity for the model you want.

    That said, however, I would REALLY encourage you to look outside of the DC sprawl. Even Frederick is too close, IMO. Hagerstown is a better bet, for price and land availability. I lived in the Baltimore-DC metroplex for many years, but now live in rural PA. I’d encourage you to compare MD and PA in terms of taxes, etc….as much as I love MD, you might be better off heading a bit north into PA. Still within a reasonable drive of DC, but also adding Philly to your client mix, depending on where you look.

    A larger property with land will give you space, and many will offer a barn or outbuildings that can be ideal for the dogs. Imagine an indoor training ring and kennels in a converted barn!

    If you do decide to look at custom design, contact your local AIA (American Institute of Architects), who can provide a directory of people who you can interview to find one who truly understands you and your desires.

    Good luck!

  27. Kristi ODonnell says:

    Great case study and I love what she does. I feel for Allen. My husband writes about trade conferences and his salary plummeted last year. He did a few virtual ones, but they aren’t the same. He’s starting to look at going to a few live ones this year, but who knows with the DV.

    I did have one maybe advice for ya to save money. Our local library has a lot of the books I want to read on Kindle or HTML. It might be something to look at so that you aren’t paying $20/month for Kindle books. If they have the option, I sent it directly to my Kindle and read for two weeks and return. It’s really easy.

    Good luck in your house and future. I also think rural would be best.

  28. Lisa says:

    Look into Carroll County. While about an hour from Montgomery, it’s a right to farm county and more open to businesses within animal/agriculture. There are several properties for sale with acreage under $650k with houses large enough to house 2 businesses.

  29. From your comments you may not be maximizing the total value of running your business. Restructuring may help you save money and maximizing tax benefits and retirement benefits.

    Are there no HOA fees in your budget for your condo?

    Sorry, but my opinion and which you allude to is that it’s unfair to neighbors to run your business from your home. The condo community where I live would not even allow it. Dogs are limited to 50 pounds in fact.

    • Birdie says:

      Yep I agree! It’s a matter of time before someone complains. It’s not an apartment type condo, it has multiple levels but we do share walls with neighbors. We do take a LOT of steps to be considerate.

  30. Caroline says:

    Just thinking about your husband’s knack for research and arguments, possibly lobbyist or policy type work? Some type of quality assurance position? I work for a non-profit community mental health center and our quality assurance director is in policy research frequently to ensure all state, grant, licensing bodies, and insurance requirements are met. Your development of your business is amazing!

  31. Vicki Lyon Prin says:

    As an Agility competitor, I would suggest you look for a place that has space for a training building. It could be used for all of your classes and training and also rented out to other trainers (especially in the winter) or for competitions. You might want to expand into agility training as training space with contact equipment is much needed. I live in Idaho, and travel 15+ miles twice a week for classes.

  32. Sarah Deacon says:

    Birdie,
    I have a rural property in Baltimore County and am earning extra side hustle $$ by having it on sniffspot… an air bob for dogs. Could help with the purchase of land if you move out of Gaithersburg, plus you would be able to advertise your training business.

  33. Natalie says:

    I don’t know you, but we did meet when you organized a polo clinic at Seneca! I feel you on the home search- there are some nice options if you are willing to drive due north along the PA line, or out in Union Bridge.

  34. Kerstin says:

    Hi Birdie,

    Just want to throw out that I recently bought a single family home in Ijamsville, MD. Its an off the beaten path spot, but definitely more affordable! (We were located in Rockville and also looked at Gaithersburg and Germantown). Plus a lot of the existing homes in the area have big lots (we were able to get an acre). Plus Frederick County income and property taxes are lower than MoCo :). Best of luck finding a place!

  35. Cynthia Brown says:

    I’m going to mirror Lisa about Carroll County. You could get the same house/property for 100k+ or less than you would in MoCo, and still be accessible to your clients. Carroll County is all about farm/agriculture life, and has lower income and property taxes so you could get more land and could build out what you want to do over time without the bureaucracy of a place like MoCo. The area around Sykesville is lovely and the town itself is pretty awesome.

    For reading, I use the Libby app and link it to my local library, and I use Amazon gift cards to buy books I can’t get through the app when it’s something I really REALLY want to read.

  36. Quadra says:

    A little late to the party… but we have our house cleaner fold our laundry as well. It’s a little more pricey than a normal cleaning (maybe $20 extra per visit), but well worth it. You may want to explore that, since it could definitely save you money!

  37. Keziah says:

    A note about potential career options for Allen: I work for an economic consulting firm, and our main business is in supporting expert witnesses in litigation matters. Lots of my colleagues have MBAs, and many of us really enjoy your research aspects of legal cases. This type of job might leverage his research skills, MBA, and professional network. Good luck.

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