Tuesday, February 05, 2013

house vs home

After last month's money meltdown on my part, Bunny and I have been talking a lot about money and goals. We always talk about our finances and our goals, but we're really trying hard to balance two specific goals in our heads and our fiscal reality right now: buying a house and living on our own. In my intensely PMS-induced meltdown I came out with a very clear opinion: I want out. I don't care about a house, I want out.

I've said it a million times before, but I have a really hard time living with my mother. It wears on me emotionally, and I know part of it is that I had some very traumatic childhood experiences in this house that affect me more than I'd like. I also went through the first portion of my adult life defining failure, for me, as moving back in with my mother. Top that off with the fact that I miss living in Toronto and the freedom it gave me terribly and I just genuinely don't like the city we live in (even though I think it's the best place for us, for a lot of reasons) and it's a bit of a headspin all around.

Plus, I miss living just with Bunny. Being able to have a conversation with him without someone trying to butt in and say "what was that" every other sentence, and when my husband asks me a question I'd like it if I could be the one to answer. I miss having our furniture, our bed, our art, our kitchen stuff. I miss him being a private place for the two of us. I miss having mid afternoon sex on the living room floor. Wait, what? Really I shouldn't complain so much, we've been lucky.

So there's a strong drive to just get a place of our own. Moving out, though, means giving up on the idea of owning a home in the next five years realistically. We just don't have enough budget leeway for both to happen, especially if I get pregnant. We haven't gotten as far ahead of things as I'd hoped to in 2012.

Financially, what we'd spend on a mortgage wouldn't be higher monthly than we'd spend on rent. Depending on how big a down payment we put togther and how small we go home wise, it's not unreasonable to think that our mortgage might even be smaller than rent is. Extra expenses aren't to be denied of course, there's property taxes and maintenance and insurance and utilities and bills you can get around with renting. Still, the down payment we come up with is a deciding factor in how much we need to pay monthly to have a house. Doable, but a little way out.

It was an expensive year. Eloping, while cheaper than a wedding, involved more than a couple splurges. We both had health care expenses, and neither dental work nor glasses are cheap. Bunny's freelance essentially dried up this summer. There were expensive and unusual truck repairs, and we bought a big "thank you" birthday present for my mom in the fall. Then there was Christmas. We saved pretty decently, but the first four months or so I was working the balance in our books didn't move very quickly.

The last few months have been different. Since Novemeber we've steadily put away a third of our regular income, and we do have some more places we can trim easily if we decide to move out. Somehow even with Christmas, even with sick days, and even with days off work we managed to save more in December than we had in almost any month this year. Bunny's freelance is moving full steam ahead this winter. I got a tiny (miniscule, but still) raise at work, and it's looking like I'm going to be bringing in a decent bonus from last month. My portion of our savings (which are the bulk of our non-RRSP savings) are higher than they were when I was laid off last year, and the bulk of that has come from the last two or three months.

Comfortably sized homes in our city can be had in the 200K range. That's a home that's a little bigger than a starter home, and on the high end of the size spectrum for us. Because of my work, we're also looking at the north end of town which is significantly less popular and in demand than the south end. It's not unrealistic to think based on the savings I've made in the past few months, the RRSP contribution we can put towards a home, and the fact that we haven't even factored any freelance money into the numbers yet as it hasn't been billed that we could be realistically looking at a home in a reasonable time period. The kicker is that a lot of it depends on the freelance: it has a bigger affect on our ability to save than any other single aspect of our financial picture. It's also the least reliable part.

So again we're left with the defining question of just what our most important goals are here. Do we need to get a house, or is a (rented) home enough? Of course it's not an easy answer, and it's never going to be. There's a lot of really solid arguments towards buying, and the finances make me lean that way but at the same time I don't like where I live and it's hard not to be miserable about it, at least some of the time.

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