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Maybe…but no

We looked at a house last week. Twice. It was really nice. It had most of what we wanted and the price could probably be negotiated into our range. Unfortunately, the layout was a bit odd. The bedrooms and closets were small. Upstairs had sloped ceilings, making it much less useful. The basement had great potential to make up for it, but in the end I couldn’t figure out where to put the pantry or any unrefrigerated food on the same floor as the kitchen. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe we will come back to this one, but it seems unlikely. We are looking at one or two more tonight.

House Hunting-The Reset

Things have been interesting, yet mostly uneventful on the house-hunting front. We had to renew our lease until the end of November, so now we have a bit more time to find something. Hopefully that is enough. Also, after a bit of looking we have a new team of realtors that we are very happy with.

We took a little vacation from looking at houses but the search resumed Monday with three more interesting candidates.

House 1:

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The first house was a repo in a nice neighborhood with an attractive price. Once it had had a pool, now it just has a crater. Also, that deck is not attached to the house, so it is pretty much useless for anything other than a pool. THe house also had shuffleboard in the basement…

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I’m not sure how to play with the wall in the middle of it, but it could be interesting.

This house had several cracks in the foundation and needed more work than we could do/afford while living in it, so we moved on to the next.

House 2:

This house was the most interesting of the bunch. It was built in 1919 and had a lot of charm. It also had a lot of light fixtures on pull chains and was almost next door to a Walgreens. Its most interesting feature was the upstairs bathroom with the astroturf-colored green carpet.

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Words cannot describe how green this is and the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Long story short, this house would be fine. We may still consider it, but neither of us are as excited about it as we should be to spend this much money.

House 3:

This house was an experience. The residents didn’t actually leave while we walked through it…because they were busy smoking their hookah in the dining room. And I’m pretty sure someone was asleep in one of the beds. There was too much stuff crammed into the house to even see what it looked like, which made it obvious that the residents (and I suspect tenants) had no intention of leaving any time soon.

We did see enough of this house to spot several structural issues. It also had these beautiful walls around the driveway to keep the yard from caving in.

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Unfortunately, it looks like they may not hold for long. This one was an easy decision.

On to the next.

House Hunting-Part 3

Last Friday morning we went and looked at 3 more houses. I even remembered my camera this time so I can show you some of the interesting things we saw.

House 1

The first house was by far the most interesting. It was recently renovated and looked like a well-done flip. It was probably the nicest thing we had seen yet in our price range, though it did have some interesting parts. Like this closet.

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It is about a foot deep before the shelves. Obviously it was meant more for hiding structure than for storage. Most of the house was painted in neutrals and light pastels. Then there was this upstairs bathroom.

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Wow color! It is actually kind of fun and cheerful. Hopefully it even wakes you up enough that you don’t walk into the ceiling (yes this is taken looking straight into the doorway).

We did consider putting in an offer on this house. It is really nice. It would work fine, but in the long run, we really weren’t excited about it. So, onto the next.

House 2

We entered the second house though the garage and were greeted by this:

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That is a dog enclosure with a permanent opening to the dog run outside. It was even still full of straw and waiting for the dog we don’t have.

As we entered it was instantly obvious that the dog was not entirely confined to this area, as the dog smell inside was extremely strong-strike one. We were also greeted with the kitchen with the stove in the middle of it.

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There was also an in-wall oven that seemed to be from the 60s or 70s and was not well taken care of-strike 2.

Then there was the lavender bathroom.

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I didn’t even know they made counters in this color. The tub had matching tile and even a matching built-in soap dish. Between this and the odd floor plan we had strike three.

House 3

The third house was built in 1900. We looked around the grounds first. The large shed was totally rotten and being held up by one beam. The bottom foot of the garage was rotten all the way around, as that is where all the runoff for the property runs through.

Then we thought we would check out the yard as it was described so nicely-

“Private waterfront Home, on almost an acre…sits on Plaster Creek with a small pond. It has a view that is hard to find anywhere. There is a patio for entertaining that overlooks the beautiful backyard and giant maple tree. With a long sloping private hill, that you can roll down in the summer, and slide down in the winter.”

So this means that there is a small back yard with a mostly useless steep sloping part going down to a stagnant pond. We never saw the creek. We also didn’t notice a maple, but there was a big walnut dropping stuff on the small usable space. There was also a great scenic view of the business right next door.

Fine. Unlikely, but we thought we would give the house a try. After all, it has “hardwood floors throughout”. We walked in and were greeted by this:

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The whole house was sloping in various directions, it has a lot of rough edges, the rooms are small, and lighting seems to be optional.

We are still looking, but as of this morning there was nothing new on the market. We need to renew our lease by the end of this week if we don’t find anything. It seems like time is against us. It is looking like our best option is to hope to get a short lease, wait a little bit, and then start over.

House Hunting-Part 2

We looked at the houses last night, and nothing really surprised us.

The first house was the best. It would have been ok, but it was at the top of our price range and too close to neighbors. It was also just like the house my husband grew up in, and only a couple houses from it. Mostly we were neutral about it and we would like a house we actually like. It went downhill from there.

The second house was the same price as the first. It only had a 1 stall garage that was maybe 6 feet tall and a single lane driveway. It was on a hill so there were steps everywhere (which mube fun in the winter). We didn’t really like the layout and it just felt wrong.

The third house was in a neighborhood we didn’t like and it had a horrible smell. Mostly wet dog with kids and a cat thrown in for good measure. It gave me a headache that lasted the rest of the night. The house is currently a daycare and it has a strange floor plan.

The fourth house was on a nice double lot, but too shady to garden well. The neighborhood was iffy and the commute would have been horrible. As for the house, it really needs to be torn down and started over. To be fair, it was only $70,000. We decided to get out of the basement before it fell down around us. Otherwise, I did like the kitchen cabinets.

I guess we keep looking. Lets see if we find anything before we have to re-sign our least by the end of the month.

House Hunting-Part 1

My husband and I have been married about a year and we have finally saved up enough for a down payment on a house. We have decided this is necessary and desirable for many reasons, including:

  • Our apartment complex doesn’t keep up with maintenance
  • Many of our neighbors are unpleasant and smoke under our windows
  • Our lease is up the end of July and we need to make a decision soon
  • We would like more space
  • We want a place to get away from everyone else to relax
  • We want something that we can make ours and possibly raise a family in

We began looking about a month ago. Most of what we looked at is either a) too small, b) in a bad neighborhood, or c) too expensive-pick 2. What we really want is some land to garden and space to have a lot of people over. Most of what we found are small ranches in the suburbs near where we grew up. They are fine but not really what we want.

Finally we found a place that we really liked. It was a repo in the country on some land. It had everything we wanted and then some. Plenty of room to garden and put in an orchard, and a huge garage for our toys. It needed some major work, but all stuff we could do.

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Yeah, I know, it is kinda ugly and it actually looks worse in person, but it has great potential.

So, we got preapproved for a mortgage just in time. Our preapproval was for less than I had hoped, but what I thought was a realistic number for us. Then we put in an offer on it. Unfortunately, ours was one of multiple offers. Then we waited.

And waited.

Finally we heard back…and we didn’t get it.

After a few days I returned to my senses. No we have another list of ranches in the suburbs to look at tonight because nothing else is available in our price range. None look exciting, but something may be sufficient. Wish us luck.

money jarOn December 29th, I came across a post about taking a 31 day no-spend challenge on the Living Well Spending Less blog. I had seen references to this as I regularly follow the blog, but this time it really stuck. I casually mentioned it to my husband and he thought it sounded interesting.

The next day we talked about it further and decided that it may be helpful for us. We have only been married a few months and are still figuring out our spending patterns. Also, our income is a bit limited right now, so our budget can use all the help it can get. Thankfully we are debt free, but things are still tight.

The Challenge:
The purpose of the challenge is to go an entire month without spending money on anything that is not a necessity. This is intended to help you reexamine how and why you spend on certain things, and reassess what is actually necessary. This is meant to refocus our priorities. Society tells us it is more important to have things, but often those things take away time and resources that could be used to strengthen relationships.

The Rules:
The challenge is flexible and the rules must be tailored to the family implementing it. We decided to limit our outgo as much as possible. We decided that utilities, rent, other bills, and previous obligations are necessary. Gas is also necessary, but we limited how much we used it. This is the most debated point, but we decided not to buy any groceries. The use of gift cards is also debated. We decided that it was still using up an asset, so we chose not to allow it.

The Preparation:
We decided to start the challenge on January 1st, which happened to be the next day, so we didn’t have much time to prepare. We spent some of the day grocery shopping to stock up a little. We tried to stick to the basics and ended spending just under $100, mostly on things like milk, eggs, bread, bagels, and salsa (and maybe a great deal on Pizza Rolls). We were worried about running out of food, and unsure what we actually used in a month-more proof that we really needed the challenge.

Diving In:
Starting the challenge was a bit surreal. It was nice that we didn’t have to go out and do as much, but we weren’t entirely sure what to do with ourselves. I like researching deals, so a decent amount of my time goes towards that. I found immediately that it was easier to unsubscribe from many of the deal sites that had been wasting my time and energy.

Food preparation was interesting. We had to get used to being creative with what we had on hand. It made for some fun meals. We often worked together to come up with meal ideas, though often it was a little overwhelming. Those were usually the times my husband stepped up and took care of the cooking. He is truly a blessing and I am grateful for him.

Entertainment was a little bit of a challenge. We only have an antenna on the TV, so there was rarely anything interesting on. We couldn’t go out and spend money on going out, and window shopping seemed to defeat the purpose. The library was a great option, but between weather and busyness we never made it there.

What we did find is that we had plenty of movies we already had and that it was really nice to spend a quiet night relaxing together. Also, we borrowed my parent’s Wii and fit, which also made for some fun evenings.

What We Did Spend:
It was very important to us to continue our tithing and other giving, so we continued that as normal. Our normal bills of rent, gas, electric, phone, and health insurance were paid, along with 2 tanks of gas per car. I had to renew my driver’s license and plates, and we finally combined our car insurances. We also paid medical bills as they came up and got one prescription.

Our more discretionary purchases started with taking his dad out to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. This was his Christmas present that we had already committed to and the only time we ate out all month. The dry cleaning we had been waiting for finally came up do we cleaned his suit and my wedding dress-both long overdue. He also got a haircut so he would look good (in his clean suit) for a job interview.

We also made one shopping trip-we were out of cat food and also needed Epsom salt to soak my still-healing ankle. We even paid for this with a gift card, so it didn’t affect our bank account. That is all we spent for the entire month

Challenges:
Old habits die hard and giving up the freedom to spend is difficult. Now we had to plan ahead so we wouldn’t starve, since we couldn’t just stop somewhere for fast food and we couldn’t just buy something if we forgot to bring it with us.

Many of the things we do for entertainment are expensive or encourage spending. We never realized how consumer-driven entertainment had become. There isn’t much to do for free in Michigan in the winter if you can’t get outside easily due to physical limitations. Our usual default was window shopping at the mall. What we realized is that we already have several board games and movies, and that we have many friends to invite over.

What We Learned:
Things you think of as necessities often aren’t. Yes you need food, but most people here have more than enough and it isn’t that hard to cook it yourself. Clothing is similar; you need enough but you do not need a full walk-in closet to live.

Pricey entertainment is often a distraction from those you are with. There are plenty of cheap or free ways to spend time with someone and grow closer together instead of just doing or seeing something in the same location as someone else. Also, TV is fun but there are several alternatives to having an expensive cable bill.

Dinners out are very nice, but my favorite dinner of the freeze was our celebration after it was over. We invited several friends over and had a potluck dinner from things we still had on hand after the month was over. There was plenty left and the ability to have so many friends in our home was a blessing far above an expensive dinner out.

Results:
We had an interesting and enjoyable month. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We feel stronger for the experience and will certainly do it again.

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I was at an expo Friday with a good friend when I saw an interesting jewelry hanger. I had been looking for a good way to store necklaces and earrings, and this is the first idea that looked useful. However, the ones at the expo started at $20 and didn’t look that interesting. That is when it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be that hard to make something similar. In fact, with my dad’s help this took about half an hour to make and we already had all the materials on hand. It even matches my rustic décor!

First I took a clean, aged stick about 18” long and about 1 1/2” in diameter. I held it at the ends to see which way gravity wanted it to hang, then I cut the knots off of the back so it could lay relatively flat.

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I found a length of lamp pull chain that I liked and used an air stapler to attach it to the ends of back. Originally I was just going to tie twine around it and hang from that, but I liked this idea better. You can use pretty much anything that is sturdy enough to hold the weight securely.

Caution: tools can be dangerous if used improperly. Be extremely careful when using them. Eye protection is always good. Do as I say, not as I do.

Next we took nails and hammered them into the top of the stick about every 2” inches to hang necklaces on. I used 1 1/2” nails, but you can use pretty much whatever you can find.

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After that I cut a piece of window screen a couple inches narrower than the stick and at a height I liked. I simply stapled this to the back of the stick with the air stapler and trimmed off any excess screen that stuck over the top.

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Then all I had to do is put my jewelry on and hang it up. I suppose if I had real jewelry I would have to have something nicer than this, but luckily for me I like the cheap stuff and it looks really nice hanging on my wall. Now I can see what I have and get to it easily.

I considered putting upward-facing hooks into the ends of the stick to hang bracelets from, but I don’t really have any. This is certainly an option, though. There are many ways this could be varied to fit different decors. I hope this gives you some ideas. Feel free to ask if you have any questions. If you try making one of these, I would love to see pictures of the finished product!

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