Archive | March 2015

We’re Homeowners Again

I have written here about how we lost all our money on an ill-advised house purchase. And yet, here we are, buying a house again! Why on earth would we do that to ourselves?

Well, for starters, we think it is worth the extra money right now to live in a detached house (as opposed to a townhouse, where we lived before). Our two boys are very active and I really want them to be able to be playing outside while dinner is in the oven, or while we relax on the patio with glasses of wine. (Boxed wine, of course.) Comparing similarly sized houses and locations, buying compares favorably to renting right now.

Little Brother can already climb this structure even though his leg is in a cast.

Little Brother can already climb this structure even though his leg is in a cast.

It seems like a safer decision this time. We have, we hope, outgrown making impetuous, poorly researched moves. There are a lot of opportunities for both of us in Denver, so our willingness to live here is not tied to one particular job (which was the case last time–and when that job went south, we were desperate to leave).

We’re optimistic it will be a good investment. Denver has a robust, diverse economy, and we bought in a neighborhood that is still up and coming. If we want to downsize when the boys are older, there’s a good chance that selling the house would free up a nice chunk of money for investment.

Then there’s the security issue. By buying, we insulate ourselves from rent increases–AND create the possibility of paying off the mortgage, eventually, and having housing drop to a minimal line item in the budget.

Despite the advantages, I’d be lying I said we didn’t have reservations. We’ve enjoyed not being responsible for maintenance, and we are not accomplished do-it-yourselfers. Will we find home ownership too stressful or expensive? The neighborhood school doesn’t sound right for our kids–will we be able to “choice them into” a better fit when the time comes?

Also, moving is hard work! This is our living room five days post-move.

Also, moving is hard work! This is our living room five days post-move.

Did we do the right thing? Did we choose the right neighborhood for our needs? Did we choose a good time to get in the market? Ask me again in five years!

Do you own or rent? What were the deciding factors for you?

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Sort-of Frugal February: Report

We were a little distracted in February by our house saga, which involved getting a contract, applying for a mortgage, getting a bad appraisal, switching lenders, postponing closing, and paying for a second appraisal (which was better). Whew! I’m also describing it as only sort-of frugal because Mr. FP spent a lot on entertainment. We go to a concert together several times a year, and he goes alone a few other times. Well, it just worked out that in February, he bought three full sets of tickets (one for my birthday–Arlo Guthrie–and the other two for a couple of our favorite bands).

Even with that rather large layout, our total discretionary spending was quite a bit lower than it usually is. If you’re curious, here’s the breakdown:

Moving-related expenses

Earnest money: $3000

Inspections and appraisals: $1631.50

Goodwill bin for Legos: $3.22

Total moving-related: $4634.72

Daycare: $705

Food

Groceries: $479.41. I have not see our fridge and freezer so empty since we moved in. Which is good, ’cause we’re moving out this weekend!

Restaurants: $61.05 (Why not $0? Mr. FP took a couple of day trips and stopped for meals. And one time he had a bad cold on a Saturday when I worked; he showed movies and ordered half-price Papa John’s for himself and the boys.)

Total food: $540.46

Entertainment: $339.14 (3 sets of concert tickets plus $26 of iTunes and $5 of Netflix)

Evening babysitting: $0!

Other

Postage: $1.61

Kids’ activities: $20 (To be refunded. Poor LB can’t do obstacle course class with his “bo-ken” leg.)

YMCA: $70

Gas/electric: $95.54

Internet: $44.83

Charity: $5

Bus and train ticket books: $40 (not all used)

Gas: $75.41

Ting mobile phone service: $43.88

Bike supplies: $6.45 (inner tube to replace shredded one)

Gift (nephew’s b-day): $15

Wallet for Mr. FP: $32.16

Sports: $60

Reimbursable parking: $12

Total other: $521

Total minus daycare and house expenses: $1369.48 

Since my general non-housing, non-daycare monthly spending goal is $1750 AND we weren’t really going flat-out this month, I consider this a win. I think we developed some good habits, like doing a better job of eating up existing food before buying more, eating our cheaper meals more often, making substitutions to extend the time between grocery trips, buying milk in gallons instead of half-gallons (Mr. FP really, really likes the paper cartons, but, as we’re looking closer at our finances, has come to admit that this is not worth $6-8 a month), and just generally refining the household routine. I’m making thicker yogurt, for instance, which means a better Greek yogurt yield.

Most importantly, we have now started tracking all our purchases as they are made. Let’s face it, it’s already March 12 and I’m just now finishing our spending analysis for February. An end-of-the-month review was not really helping us calibrate during the month. Now, we enter everything immediately and see the new total. No doubt we will continue to refine the system (currently a Google Sheet, as Mr. FP wanted control over it), but at least there IS a system now. I just finished reading Your Money or Your Life (Mr. FP read the summary at the end) and, despite our general level of distraction and discombobulation, we’re slowly implementing some of its ideas. Like to keep track of every penny, both coming and going.

I’d like to try this experiment again when we’re settled in our house, perhaps in the fall, and see if we can hit a lower number. Friends, what’s your low-spending record?

In Which I Resist the Urge to Despair

I had hoped to have for you today an analysis of our highly distracted but well-intentioned uber-frugal February. But I have not had time to compile this analysis, as we spent half the day yesterday at the ER with Little Brother. He had a sledding accident, you see, and when he was still complaining of pain the next day, we thought perhaps he had a sprain of some kind.

It was an honest-to-God broken leg.

Fortunately, it’s a nondisplaced fracture (meaning the bone cracked through but the pieces stayed in place, and they did not have to set it). Still, they had to put on a temporary plaster cast from his toes all the way to his hip.
IMAG0168

Little Brother contemplating what trouble he can cause within a two-foot radius.

Friends, I admit I nearly despaired. This kid can’t walk. He may not be able to walk for four to six weeks (we’ll know more when the permanent cast goes on Friday, but they said it will probably not be a walking cast–and it’s not like a two-year-old can use crutches). He is not supposed to crawl, stand, or put any weight on his left leg. He will need sponge baths. All the toddler skills we’ve been working on–going potty, cleaning up toys, taking his own dishes to the sink, dressing himself–they’re all on hold. He has to be carried everywhere like a giant heavy baby. No playing outside. No running around the house in his superhero cape. He can’t even wear underpants because of the risk of a potty accident; I had to put him in disposable training pants. And the timing is terrible: After a two-week delay, we are hoping to close on our house purchase on Friday the 13th. We’ll be trying to pack and unpack and move while keeping a two-year-old entertained in a stationary position. I am sad for him and frustrated for myself.
But, just like when I got a flat tire, I would rather think about all the ways my life does not suck right now:
  1. We are buying a house! Our boys will have their own rooms and a backyard for the first time ever.
  2. I can afford to pay the bill, unlike the last time I went to the ER and, as I mused about during my flat-tire debacle, I had to ask for three different payment plans. I even have a medical FSA; I only put in $400, which may not be enough, but it will keep me from having to shell out a giant wad of cash all at once.
  3. My kids are healthy enough to break legs sledding. No one is guaranteed even one healthy, typically developing child, and I have two. How great is that? This is one month of my life that I’ll laugh about later, not my long-term reality.
  4. We have easy access to top-notch medical care. We drove there in our totally functional car and got him X-rayed and fixed up. In much of the world, that’s not possible.
  5. Because of that prompt access to top-notch medical care, we can expect Little Brother to make a full, uncomplicated recovery.
  6. People love us. We got lots of Facebook well-wishes, plus calls and e-mails from our loved ones and presents from Grandma FP.

What are your first-word problems this week? What are you grateful for?