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The American Dream, Version 2.0 April 6, 2009

It’s finally here: the day when the albatross lifts from my shoulders. The sale of our home closes today, and I feel like wearing a party hat and throwing confetti. If I just survive until this evening, I’ll be free.

How I felt as a homeowner. I kid you not.

How I felt as a homeowner. I kid you not.

True, the sale was only accomplished by our willingness to take a big financial hit. True, the process has been more painful than an unanaesthetized root canal. True, I have learned that the two agents involved in this transaction are the moral equivalent of actual plastic douche bags turned inside out and used as pooper scoopers in a dog park where the dogs have all had triple espressos and a platter of mozzarella sticks. Realtors, I am convinced, suck. Still…the end is in sight, and I’m approaching it with a profound sense of relief.

The $10,000 down payment I signed over in December of 2006? Gone, never to be seen again, along with about $24,500 of our cash reserves and available credit. But it’s worth it. It’s like amputating a dying limb, and saving the rest of the patient. True, he might not feel whole until he’s had extensive prosthetics and physical therapy, but he’s alive. He made it. And now he appreciates everything he sees so much more, because he almost lost it.

So why did we do what home-buying gurus claim is the dumbest thing possible? It’s the economy, stupid. #1: I work in retail, which means my days might be numbered. I’ve survived several rounds of layoffs so far, but there’s no such thing as a cocky advertising employee right now. #2: I live in Arkansas, which isn’t exactly the capital of economic development. On any given Sunday, there are more dogs for sale in the paper than there are jobs. It’s not a pleasant environment in which to find a liberal arts job, let alone one that lets you live above the poverty level, with benefits (even crappy ones). Faced with these possibilities, there is only one solution: make every dollar go further by reducing what it costs to live, month in and month out.

By opting out of the house, we’re looking at a significant reduction in monthly expenses. Here’s a brief tally of our projected savings:

–No property tax: + $225/month

–No homeowner’s insurance: + $57/month

–No homeowner’s association dues: + $41 a month

–Savings in monthly rent vs. mortgage: + $400/month

–Switching from Comcast cable/internet to AT&T no-land-line-required DSL: + $20/month

–Switching from TMobile to AT&T, to use my husband’s preferred employer discount: + $30/month (yes, our contract was up; no, I did not pay an early termination fee)

–Projected savings in monthly utilities: + $120/month (electricity, gas, sewer, water, garbage)

Total per month: + $893/month

And guess what: our 2-bedroom luxury apartment only costs $850/month. True, we have taken on a total of $18,000 in debt to get out of this house. But with aggressive savings, we can push hard and repay that amount in about two years. (Less than that if we forward our entire tax refund for those years to Citibank.) This way, if I lose my job, I’m covered. We owe much less on a monthly basis, and I can enroll in my credit card’s protection program that defers payments if I lose my job.

Will we need to keep our heads down and ignore the siren song of eating out multiple times a week, new clothes, and vacations? Yes, but so will many others. It’s a recession, after all. It’s the perfect climate to buckle down and pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  In a sick way, I’m almost looking forward to it.  I have a goal, a purpose, a mission. And when it is all over and we emerge with debt paid and a long hibernation of thriftiness, we’ll be smarter, stronger and wiser. And none of it would have happened if we hadn’t taken the plunge, shaken things up, and gotten the hell out of that house.

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One Response to “The American Dream, Version 2.0”

  1. george carlin Says:

    I live in rhode island and this state gets worse every year we have the highest unemployment rate there are a lot of homes going up for sale cause people can’t afford it no more foreclosures you name it


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