All The Numbers Make My Head Hurt
Today, I own my house all by myself. Pretty freaking awesome and scary at the same time.
For just about a year now, while my ex and I hammered out the details and paperwork of our divorce, I’ve been paying the mortgage on the house we bought together on my own. Paying for a mortgage based on two incomes with only one measly museum curator salary is not a fun thing. When I first started the refinance process to own the house by myself, I kept thinking that if I went on Suze Orman’s show, she would yell at me and say what a fool I was being.
I may be foolish to undertake a house ( an old one at that) on my own. In the day and age when many people in my age bracket are opting to not own a home, I purchased a house in 2009 with my then boyfriend as an investment property ( I can hear the laughter from the blogosphere). Thankfully, the house is in amazing condition and has required few updates beyond cosmetic changes and so far ( fingers crossed), I have gained equity and hopefully when I do sell someday in the future, I will come out even or even make a few dollars.
Looking back over the past year, there are moments when I am not sure how I made it by without missing a single payment on a bill and without racking up ridiculous amounts of credit card debt. It required a lot of sacrifice in the form of far less dinners out with friends, no random shopping trips “just to see what’s on sale,” and cancelling cable. I took on freelance work, signed up for focus groups and surveys, and a bunch of other little odds and ends to bring in extra funds. Christmas and birthday gifts were sparse or nonexistent. I said no to a lot more things than I said yes to, but it was all out of necessity to make my mortgage, student loan, and other payments. There was no wiggle room and many months involved some creative accounting and juggling of funds between accounts to make ends meet.
I don’t tell all of this for pity or to even feel like I have something to be congratulated for because I know many people who get on with greater bills than I and less monthly income. Figuring out a strict budget and sticking to it, making sacrifices for the responsible things in life is not a great achievement, though it does involve a great deal of willpower and discipline. The year of minimal living and cutbacks really made me think about what was important in life- what I really needed, what I thought I needed, and what was just filler in life. I’ve gained so many hours of life back from not running endless errands to buy things I don’t entirely need. My house is far less cluttered with random items purchased; the quality of my life has really benefited from the minimal living. I’m not so extreme in having only 100 things or something like that, but I definitely worked hard to use what I had in the house or from family/friends.
When I did spend money, it was on things that truly mattered ( a dinner out with a close friend or aspects of a Christmas present I was making) and brought meaning to my life. I tried to make really conscious purchases when I was getting things for the house, cut down on grocery shopping to things I know I would use and enjoy, etc. I learned what the true meaning of value.
Now that I have some space to breathe with my budget, I have no plans to go back to old way of living. If anything, I think I will be more frugal and closely watching my money as I try to build a savings and pay back the many favors given to me so graciously over the past year. I am hoping I will be less stressed about the dollar amount in the bank.
This past year has been so focused on getting through each hurdle- getting paperwork for divorce, going to court, figuring out house, etc.- that I feel I have not spent ( either time or money wise) enough on me. I am home lots of nights doing the things I love the most- reading, writing, watching movies, spending time with family and friends- but I have not done much to push or challenge myself because of my concerns over the money. I’ve used it as an excuse a lot which is krap because if I wanted something bad enough, I would go after it, regardless of funds. I know subconsciously I couldn’t make that leap for myself to do something I wanted because the money thoughts were in the forefront of my mind. I used it as a crutch to stop me from further growing or discovering what I wanted for my life. I know that now having a lesser mortgage and saving money each month will not change my thinking overnight, but I’m hoping that as I grow into this “new life,” I will put myself out there to try some things knowing that I have saved and worked hard for it.