About 18 months ago Husband and I decided to get rid of our debts once and for all. It took us about a year of serious tight budgeting, and right when we paid off the last one he unexpectedly got laid off. Good timing or what?
We were not only debt-free but had a small cash savings put aside as well. We’ve been wanting to buy a home for a while but we also wanted a trailer. We’re avid campers but, being in our early 40’s, sleeping on the ground was fast losing its appeal. We figured that once we purchased a home we’d have lots of expenses, so we decided to get the trailer first.
Last fall we bought our baby. She’s 30 years old, but the last owner restored her to mint condition.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to use her before camping season ended because we lacked a tow vehicle. We did a ton of research and thinking about it over the winter, and this past week we finally bought one. It’s a 2003 Ford Expedition and let’s just say with the economy and gas price concerns these days it was a good bargain.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to pay cash for these purchases and to own these things without looking at years of monthly payments ahead of us. But now, of course, our cash savings account is looking a little bare. With Husband having just launched a new business our income is still “approaching equilibrium” and our savings rate over the next little while is unknown.
We have sworn not to access the now-insane amount of credit we have at our disposal (why is it when you don’t want/need it suddenly everybody wants to extend it to you?). The only debt we wish to incur is a mortgage. So now I find myself in an interesting mindset, looking at daily life from a different perspective.
Recently I went to the dentist after too long a hiatus and discovered I’m going to need about $2000 worth of dental work. Sure, I could put it all on Visa or the LOC but I refuse to do that. Instead I will save up and have it done a bit at a time. The dentist’s office offered me a payment plan when I said I wanted to spread the treatments out a month at a time, as if I had no other way to pay for it. No, I could pay for it just fine thank you but I refuse to go into debt over this. They probably think I’m some kind of nutcase.
I’m also feeling like we should put our house-buying plans on hold for a little while longer. We’ve got the downpayment set aside already. But even if our mortgage payment is similar to the rent we’re paying right now, there are a lot of expenses involved in owning a place. My friend, for example, is looking at replacing her roof within the next five years. Estimated cost around $30,000. Now most people might take out a home-equity loan but my friends are already in debt, struggling to pay it off quickly, and have no desire to ever be back in that situation. So within their debt-payment and savings plans they have to account for the new roof. If we bought a place I know there would be a long list of things we’d like to do, and I’d want to have the cash ready for that.
Walking around in this buy-now-pay-later world, seeing it through new eyes, is a rather strange experience. The notion of saving up to buy something is so foreign in our society. And yet my feeling is you either wait for what you want, or pay for it afterwards: either way you are looking at long-term. But the latter way also comes with financing costs (and a noose around your neck). Renting may not have the status of being a homeowner (and believe me, I have struggled with that), but we can move any time if we have to (regardless of what our house may be worth) and when something breaks or needs repairs it doesn’t come out of our hard-earned savings.
Meanwhile, we’ll give our businesses a chance to grow and we’ll enjoy a fabulous season of camping this year. Hopefully we’ll even rebuild our cash savings. But I have come to find a deep sense of patience in this regard, which has been sorely lacking in me over the years. And I’m quite sure that the experience of paying cash and refusing to use credit has brought me to this place. Things are good for us right now, even though we don’t really know what our income is going to be this year. And for once in my life I’m feeling happy with what I have right now, rather than spending all my mental energy focussing on what I Want.