Friday, February 5, 2010

What Is Home?

I have spent so many hours over the last week looking for rental housing in our potential community. It's a college town and has quite a variety to choose from. Donald and I are trying to avoid undergrad-type housing and we have found several good options. I'm going out with him next week to visit and I have appointments with eight different places of varying styles and prices.

This experience has been a bit more energy-sapping than I had anticipated. I am the kind of girl who loves projects like this, creating spreadsheets and lists, and doing lots of online research and making phone calls. Sneaking into all of this, however, are several thoughts that have had me sitting back a bit and thinking about our next steps.

Living with Donald's parents has affected us. As in, going out on our own again is actually a bit scary sounding, even though it's something we really want. I'm having a hard time trusting prospective landlords and property management companies. I'm wondering what elements will really make our new place a good home for us. Do we pay more for some things? Should we be saving all of our money for a down payment on a house?

The plan right now is to rent for a year or two until we learn about the neighborhoods and get a sense of where we want to live, and then look for a house to buy. We have never owned a house before, so this step is huge for us. The place we move in to first might be for only a year, or it might be for longer, so we're trying to find a balance between saving money and having the amenities that we really want.

Laundry in-home, for example (we have gotten used to it). A yard (garden, dog, space). An extra bedroom or two (office, visitors, babies!). Are all of these worth spending more money on? Even if it delays a house purchase?

And that's just housing stuff. Donald and I definitely need to sit down and figure out our budget further. We have our basic expenses figured out (utilities, groceries, etc.) and it has been a long time since our incomes could cover our expenses. That is a wonderful feeling. It's the extra stuff that we're saving for that gets complicated. I'm going to be consulting Get Rich Slowly for a lot of advice as we move forward.

A down payment on a house is pretty easy to figure out, because we want to hit a certain percentage of the sale price and we have a sense of how much money we want to spend on our first house.

Starting a family is a very fluid thing to save for. Do people actually do that? Or do you just decide it's time to have a family and then deal with whatever expenses come along? Obviously, you can always spend more money on kids, but does anyone have a suggestion about a baseline for a first kid budget? Am I crazy thinking that this is something over which we have control?

Travel is a big one. My family lives in California and we want to see them there at least once a year. We're also trying to set up a yearly visit with some friends of ours, and there are always family get togethers that are fun to attend. My best friend is also getting married this year and I'm throwing part of her bachelorette party, so those expenses are included here as well. Donald and I want to visit a dude ranch (remember my need to learn to barrel ride?) and I want to take him to Europe (Scotland and Italy are first on our list).

Creeping into my consciousness are also a lot of mixed feelings now that this seems like it's actually going to happen. We have had a truly wonderful year staying with Donald's parents. I am so grateful to be able to say that. It hasn't always been fun, but we have really made the most of it and it feels so wonderful to have gotten to know each other so much better. It has also been pretty cushy and we have gotten used to a certain level of pampered-ness that will be hard to leave. We have gotten dependent.

It has been so nice to always have someone home, to talk to, to eat with, to sit in the same room with. It will just be the two of us again (and our two cats) and that might be weird to adjust to at first. That's why my So Close post included making new friends - it will be so important so that we get out of the house and don't drive each other crazy (in a bad way).

We have a snowed-in kind of weekend ahead of us, so maybe it will be time to figure some of these things out. As always, your words of advice, support and encouragement mean so much to me. Thank you for reading.


  1. I think it's important to plan but there's some danger in over-planning. I think you have a strong sense of what's going to be necessary for home-buying and a lot of budgeting for kids means to simply wing it. Other than the hospital bills for labor & delivery, there's not a lot you can plan out. It's a live and learn process. You'll get it.
    Good luck on the home-finding. It can be a very stressful process but I have no doubt you will find the perfect place for now. =)

  2. Hi Daphne! This is such an exciting, tho daunting, time for you! A lot of decisions to make but something everyone goes thru at one time or another in a lifetime. You'll be fine!

    I don't know that people actually SAVE UP before having kids (although it's a great plan - you have NO idea what kids cost you!) but I would caution anyone to at LEAST get in a relatively stable financial state, and get your travel dreams done first. Having a child will put a lot of stress into your life - it's really best not to add a kid to the mix before you are really, really ready. The young people I know who made Emotional decisions to have kids really had an awful time with the added stress. The ones who planned it out and waited were way more prepared and did adjust more easily.

    The list of all the things you're thinking about - wow. Baby steps, honey. One thing at a time. Have fun with the home search!

  3. Was the weekend productive for this?

    I second a lot of suZen's ideas - I don't think you can necessarily "save up" for a kid unless you know you're going to have an extensive maternity leave and it won't be covered by your employer. Other than that, I had this conversation with my mom while I was in Utah and she (after having 6 kids and insurance for only 2 of the births) says it doesn't have to be as expensive as people make it.

    She advised me to have a healthy body, health insurance and a stockpile of diapers. She said I should breastfeed as long as possible and not waste money on baby clothes. And she suggested that I involve my family like I did with the wedding - "Could you go in on a crib or a car seat?"

    Heck, second hand baby boutiques are big business these days. Baby stuff doesn't have to cost so much.

    House stuff, though.. I'm not in that boat either, but if I could have it my way, I'd try to get into a 15 year mortgage. Gary and I just switched to paying our mortgage every two weeks and it's going to save us $59K in insurance and get us out of the mortgage something like 5-7 years sooner!

  4. Ladies, sorry for the delay in replying to your comments!

    Mindy - I am definitely at risk for over-planning (you could tell, I'm sure). That's partially why I asked for some feedback, for a mental check on whether I really need to be planning out all of these things in so much detail. Thanks so much for the luck on house-hunting - I'll be updating soon.

    suzen - It is very exciting and scary! Thank you for making sure that I do not feel alone in this process. Knowing that I can count on the experiences of other people gives me strength. Donald's final job offer will provide us with financial stability, which is definitely the "GO" light for us on having children. I appreciate your point about traveling before kids; I know that it will get a lot harder once they are here. Donald and I have been married for almost five years, and I know that we're both emotionally and mentally ready. Thank you so much for the encouragement.

    Kate - The weekend was not as productive as I had hoped, which I'll be posting about this week. I like what you said about having kids not having to be as expensive as most people assume. Our kids definitely don't need things like designer clothes or anything like that. I've already been working on making sure that I am healthy. We will have health insurance through Donald's job, once it is official. I like your suggestion about asking family and friends to help, like a wedding.

    Thank you all so much for the feedback! I'll be posting an update soon.


I welcome and appreciate your comments!