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October 2008 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

October 2008 - Posts

  • Should I sell my house?

     I moved into my dream house almost seven years ago -- it's a four-storey Victorian row house with marble fireplaces, pocket doors, mahogany banisters... it's gorgeous! It needed a lot of work, and I have it about half-renovated. Brand-new kitchen, gorgeous historic wallpaper, stripped wood-work. But -- but... I'm living beyond my means. My mortgage payment (due to reckless refinancing) is about 75% of my monthly outlay, and is more than twice what it originally was when I bought the house with 25% down seven years ago. I've kept tapping my house for equity and kept hoping that my job situation would improve. And it's not -- I am really stretched, and I am giving real thought to selling the house and all the stuff that goes with it.

    It's such an emotional decision, and I haven't decided 100%, but I think it's probably the right thing to do. I'm self-employed and living month to month. I keep scraping by, but I am not living comfortably, and I'm working as much as I can right now. My (new) boyfriend and I have discussed my moving in with him (to his brand-new, very comfortable, no renovation work needed house), and that is what has put this whole plan in motion. I owe about half of what my house is worth (so I own two of the four floors, is the way I see it), plus a TON of student loans. If I could sell my house and all my stuff and move in with him, I would be totally out of debt, my monthly expenses would be about half of what they are now, and I would be living within my means.

    It seems like the rational thing to do (maybe not the moving in with the boyfriend, but if not that, at least getting a little condo or even renting an apartment again), but it's such an emotional decision. I love my house, it is so special, but I'm walking around in a hat because i can't afford heat.  And I've been waiting two years for my business to thrive, and it's still not happening.....

    I welcome any thoughts as I make this decision. 

  • Suddenly, we're mainstream

     It was 2002 when I first heard about the Dave Ramsey method, but it just confirmed what I knew to be true about money, debt, and freedom from my upbringing. Somehow along the way, though, I went astray and bought in to the whole consumer culture with quick credit and no savings. I had let myself believe that I would just eventually earn more and then in that inevitable future, I would pay things off and be financially secure. 

    Well, I am earning far less now in 2008 than I was in 2002, but am much more free, because I am in control of my money through budgeting and a sound savings plan. Over the past six years, I have paid a lot of attention to articles and radio shows about personal finance (Marketplace Money, in particular), but those seemed to focus more on planning for retirement or saving for kids' college, not as much on what to do in the here and now to get out of debt, and while they didn't praise credit cards, they didn't always demonize them as much as I'd have liked.

    But now that economies around the world are crashing due to being built on credit and speculation, ideas about thrift, and cutting back, and actually living within one's means are suddenly mainstream. I can't turn on the radio without hearing about how families are cutting back on expenses, where to buy used clothing, where to find bargains in the grocery store, how to take care of your bike if you've sold your car. It's nice to hear all this, and it's kind of nice to feel like those of us who have been stretching our dollars for a while in order to achieve personal freedom by not being enslaved to consumerism and earning enough to support that have been ahead of the curve.

    This morning's news reports that the stock markets are back on the way up. I wonder if the recent thrift movement over the past few weeks has been a "bubble" or if it really does signal a change in mainstream America's relationship with money, credit, debt, thrift, and our general life styles. I've never felt so supported and accepted for being thrifty as I do right now.

  • Favorite things -- kitchen edition

    I was listening to NPR while cooking dinner (as is my wont) and was getting really anxious about the economy and the future. But then I looked around me and saw many things to be thankful for. I love my kitchen, it's the heart of my house. And while I'd really like a shiny stainless-steel mandoline, I have everything I need to make really good, wholesome food for myself and those I love. Here are some of my favorite kitchen things, and why I love them:

    • Meyer's anodized aluminum pots and pans -- I bought these 19 years ago at JC Penney for $100. I've used them nearly every day for those 19 years and hope to get many many more years out of them. I bought them because I couldn't afford Calphalon, and quickly discovered I love them much better than the little Calphalon sauce pan I already had.
    • $5.00 sink -- I got this at the local salvage place (faucet included). It's a drop-in, nice and wide, and it looks really cute and retro.
    • $$$$$$ cabinets -- I splurged and got really fancy Italian kitchen cabinets (from Italy!). But I own them, and I love them.
    • Cheap-o granite counter top -- The handyman who put my kitchen in agreed to my plan of using inexpensive Home Depot granite tiles grouted very close together to mimic a solid granite counter top. It cost around $100.00
    • Collection of decorative serving bowls -- some of these were my late mother's, some I've picked up at thrift stores over the year, one I got from a friend for Christmas. They make me happy because they are pretty, and I love to make food for people in these nice pretty things.
    • Table runner -- I bought this very cute table runner at Savers for about $2.00 five years ago. It was clearly hand-made from a scrap of fabric, but it's really sturdy and has a very harmnious design.
    • Orange couch (aka dog's throne) -- A really charming orange settee that I picked up at a flea market for $30.00 a few years ago. Any time people who are into antiques or home design see this, they remark on how elegant it is. My dog, quite the aesthete apparently, also loves it and hops up on it and snuggles in a corner and looks at me longingly while I make dinner. 

    So, while I still worry about keeping my business afloat and earning enough to heat my lovely house, I can at least go down to the kitchen, invite some friends over, and cook under the dog's supervision. These are a few of my favorite things!

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