Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Part VIII: House and Home

Linda and I just celebrated our 18th Anniversary this last Sunday. I figured I'd do another installment of Beauty and the Beast (BatB): The Linda and Patrick Story. On the main blog there is a list of chapters if you need to get up to date.

When Linda and I were engaged we naively just thought a furnished house was part of the whole marriage deal. We didn't really know if it was going to fall from the sky or friends or family were just going to gift us a big mansion with a big bow on it. We just figured it was...provided. The shock of having to stop looking googly eyed at each other long enough to think about getting a place was more than we could stand. I remember the same feeling when I found out that Santa wasn't real and also when I realized that my teachers were real people with real lives. Shock and awe right?

So we woke up out of our dream state called "engagement" and started with a budget. We obviously had to know what we could afford before looking right? It was an eye opener to realize there was a limited amount of money coming in therefore there should be an even more limited amount going out. My philosophy that money just fell from the sky in the form of mommy and daddy or the Wells Fargo Visa salesman on campus (who gives a college kid with no job a credit card with a $1,200 limit?) and all of it needed to be spent wasn't going to fly. See Linda and I wanted to live on my income alone in case she got pregnant. You know because we would be married and that could happen!

The housing line item on our budget said: $600 per month for rent. We kept expenses low (I don't know what we budgeted for entertainment, but it allowed us to get a Slurpee every once in a while) so that we could live on my $28,000 per year income and save 100% of Linda's $32,000 income for a down payment on a house.

We went searching for an apartment. It was tough to find anything in our price range that was clean and in La Crescenta/Montrose area. It came down to two places:

1. A quaint little 1BD/1BA in the back of house over a couple of parking spaces for $615 per month.
2. The most gloriously appointed 1BD/1BA in a cool complex, we loving still refer to as Roy's (the owner) place, which was going for $680 per month. (Guess which one I wanted?)

Try as we might we couldn't justify the extra $65 per month, so we signed up for the quaint little one. It was clean and though our friends wouldn't ooh and ahhh and think we were the coolest like they would if we lived in Roy's place it was a great deal. The landlord ended up being awesome and very easy to work with. That $65 per month or $780 per year really came in handy, because as you can imagine we didn't account for everything in our budget. At that point neither of us had really lived out on our own per se. Sure Linda lived on campus and I got kicked out of my parents house for a few months, but nothing sustained.

That money came in handy to bail us out so we didn't have to touch the house fund. Oh wait did I tell you about the house fund? I like to tease Linda about it, but it really did end up being a great way for us to get a down payment together. See she still had a Credit Union account that she had under Linda Durand. She direct deposited her entire paycheck there for the first two years of our marriage.

Seems kinda weird, but the wisdom was there because to touch it both of us had to really go through the motions to ask each other if we REALLY needed that money. For instance, I thought it would be a really great idea to buy a Slurpee machine. Seriously. I was getting tired of driving the one mile to get us Slurpees so I looked it up. I think it was a mere $14,000 (the real one from 7/11 not the fake plastic ones they have now) to have a machine that made us Cherry Fanta and Coke Slurpees if I remember correctly. So this was the process:

Me: Linda Durand
Linda: Oh no you only call me that when you want to spend our house money
Me: Seriously this is a GREAT idea
Linda: I doubt it but go on
Me: You know how I go to 7-11 a lot to get us Slurpees?
Linda: You mean once or twice a week?
Me: Yes! I think we should buy a machine instead!
Linda: Oh that might be a good idea how much are those things?
Me: $14,000
Linda: (Actually thinks about it for a split second) No, I don't think that's a good idea. I mean house down payment or Slurpee machine?
Me: Yeah I guess you are right...

We liked Slurpees that much back then! Because of the amazing discipline we showed by the end of our second year of marriage we had saved $50,000 to put down on a house. After figuring out a new budget with a mortgage instead of rent and my awesome new salary of about $32,000 per year we knew we could afford something in the neighborhood of $150,000 to maybe $190,000. Our search went like this:

1. We promised ourselves we wouldn't EVER buy a townhouse/condo.
2. We looked at all the houses in La Crescenta area that we could afford.
3. We looked at all the houses in other areas (like Chino) we could afford.
4. We decided to buy a townhouse/condo.

Again we were young and naive. We thought we had saved a bundle of dough we should be rewarded with the nice ranch style, 3-4BD/2-3BA house with the picket fence and gynormous back yard. Well all of those were $220,000. I'm not kidding they were just out of our price range. We had a Roy's place moment again wondering if we should stretch ourselves to the payment of a $220,000 house. In the end, we didn't we bought a great 2BD/2.5BA townhouse just up the street from our apartment that was $150,000 on the dot. It had three levels the garage level, then the kitchen/living room area and at the top all the bedrooms. The best part was the payments were great! It was a great place and we are glad we settled for it because later we would have to make a quick move and actual houses would have been harder to sell quickly. That is a story for another time.

To this day I don't know how we had the wisdom to go the financially conservative route that we did. And I REALLY mean that. I'm seriously the guy that got the Wells Fargo and BofA credit cards in college and spent the limits, because I thought that's what you were supposed to do! Linda and I were really made for each other. I'm a spender and she's a hoarder. Together we have created a way to wisely invest the money God gives us, both to live within our mens and to give generously and freely. I love it.

As nice as it is for us to have been able to buy a house so early in our marriage (and subsequently buy the house we live in today) it is so much more important that Linda and I have a home, a refuge for us and our boys to come to. We could have that in the $615 per month 1BD/1BA if we had to! Mainly because we work together and not against each other and that's just one of the things that makes our house a home.

That completes Part VIII of BatB. See you next year!