Less than 48 hours after making the offer on the condo, fear’s icy hands come to drag me down under the churning surface. A closer look at my budget squeezes the air from my lungs. The Wow of this has become the Ugh. What do you call buyer’s remorse before the purchase? Bidder’s remorse, maybe? If this offer is accepted, I have no earthly idea how I am supposed to make ends meet.
This is supposed to be the happy blog. I know. I will try to write my way there now, because nothing else is working. Thinking is getting me nowhere but further down in the cold dark.
Two and a half years ago when Tee’s job went away, all of our possessions went with it. Four-bedroom house, the shed Tee built for our tools and outdoor gear, furniture, appliances. All the little things a family collects over time had to go away, too: bicycles, books, dishes, linens, lamps, sleds, on and on. You can imagine. We sold tons of stuff on Craigslist. A massive yard sale that brought in $1000.
It was a conflagration. It was as complete as embers and ash.
We moved back to where we had started six years earlier. We rented a storage unit after moving in with my folks but soon realized the rent on the space would far outstrip the cost of the items inside. We emptied it, took several trips to Goodwill, and each tucked away what little bundle of marital debris we could manage in our respective borrowed bedrooms.
I had been out of the workforce raising Bug and being a camp wife in the mountains for five years. This set me back on the job hunt but it did not cripple me. In the wretched economy of 2010, I landed a decent job at an entry-level salary and am thankful for it every day. Even so, my paycheck does not stretch far enough to move Bug and me out of dependence on my parents. In those first panicked months of separation from Tee, I realized that no one was going to fix this for me. If I was going to climb out of my financial hole, I had to do it myself (with ample and very blessed help from the folks, of course. No way around that). Three options seemed to be available to me:
- Marry a rich guy
- Write a best-selling book
- Increase my income at my job
Options 1 and 2 were a bit too risky for my taste. I was fresh out of a marriage to someone whose perception of the world had never been based in a reality I recognized. I needed to place my bets on something that depended less on the whims of others. Sure, I would date (eventually) and sure, I would write (erratically), but I was not yet ready to morph into a Kardashian or JK Rowling.
I am a hard worker, though. I can kick ass when I put my mind to something.
Which is what I have done at my job. It helps that I love it and that working in higher ed is a great way to make a contribution while still drawing in decent benefits. I am pleased to note that 2 1/2 years into my job, I have received two small raises, a promotion, and am being encouraged to take on a greater leadership role at the university. My income has not doubled and it may never, but I have seen my effort and courage rewarded well. This gives me every reason to believe that if I keep on finding ways to grow and improve, new opportunities will present themselves.
It is just a little hard to remember all this when I picture being entirely responsible for mortgage and everything else my son will need to grow up safe and well.
A short sale can take somewhere between 90-120 days to close. This gives me a few months to tighten my belt. I think now about re-accumulating these possessions to make a home, and I see how the expense can sink a person. Tee and I took eight years to build up that foundation. It will take far more than that yard-sale $1000 to begin to re-furnish a life. If I move in the next few months, I will have to come up with stores of money I simply do not have to cover payments my parents’ largesse has helped me avoid. You know, those little things like food in the fridge, heat, and electricity.
I keep running and re-running the numbers in my personal budget. Where else can I shave? The internal chatter has been incessant:
If I bike to the metro every day, I don’t have to pay parking or gas. Can we get by on $200 a month in groceries? What about $150? The gym membership can go, of course. We will have to reel in Christmas and birthdays. No more eating out. I don’t need much in the way of new clothes for the next few years, and I know where to find decent used kid stuff. Shoes for Bug could be a problem. The kid needs a new pair every 6 months!
All of this, to make sure Bug and I have a home. It seems insane to do it. It also seems insane not to. With an interest rate of around 3.5% for 30 years in a high-growth area of the DC metro region, this place can be both a good home and a decent investment for our future. If I can swing it for a couple of spaghetti-years, I may be able to come up with other creative ways to bring in money.
This is where the happiness warms loose the cold grip of fear.The truth is that I have every tool available to me to make this work.
- I am already frugal to a fault.
- My years working in a family homeless shelter taught me about resourcefulness.
- Camp taught me to be creative with spaces and furnishings.
- The past two years have shown me the extent of my work ethic, creativity, and willingness to try unconventional approaches.
- I have such a great circle of supportive friends and family, I know we will never be entirely on our own.
- Bug and I could share a room for a year and find a roommate. I know graduate students and the condo is near a university.
- With my free weekends and my own home, I could make progress on writing projects that could bring in extra money.
- As long as I keep my eyes and heart open, something new will present itself to help me along. It always has, and it always does.
- A home is not the same as having a baby. It is reversible. If I get a few years into this and can’t make ends meet, I can sell. People sell houses all the time. Someone is selling this one to me.
Just because I am tired and scared today and can’t think of how to make this work does not mean it can’t work. I was tired and scared in 2010. I was blind to a way forward. Somehow, we made it here. Here is a really good place to be.
The future is growing up and around me. Some of it is within my control. A great deal of it is coming here to meet me. I keep learning the lay of the land and how to move over it. Just keep walking, as they say, and the way will appear.