One of the most awkward conversations we’ve had with our parents (aside from the “so, we’re Christians now…” one, that is), came the day we decided to sell our house and go back to renting. My in-laws didn’t get it (and have been very open about saying so, in a very respectful fashion). For them, owning a home is just something you do if you’re an adult.
Most of the adults I know think this way, too.
And yet, a growing number of us are realizing home ownership is not something that may be within our reach. Some of us enjoy flexibility of renting (because there’s no house to sell, you can move fairly quickly if the right opportunity presents itself). Many simply can’t afford it.
We were in the latter category when we sold. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we were so unbelievably house poor with our very modest home on a busy street, that we would stress out every time an issue came up on the car, or when our kids needed new clothing. So finally, we said “when.” We sold the house, after months of trying to do it on our own.
Over the last several months, we’ve found ourselves in another predicament: our car repair costs have been creeping up.
This year, in particular, we’ve had more than $1500 in repairs. I brought it into the shop just last Monday, in order to repair a leak in the power steering lines and refill the fluid. Before that, it was the brake lines, and one of the brake callipers had seized. So, on Friday, when the check engine light came on again, I said “when.” On Saturday, we bought a new (to us) mini-van, which we will have in our possession later this week. That is lifestyle change number one: we will soon be a mini-van driving family.
And this has caused lifestyle change number two: we have to rejig our family’s budget. I desperately wanted to be able to purchase a car outright. I wanted to be able to save up enough before going to a dealership to do this, but it didn’t happen. The repairs on our existing car ate away at our savings in this area too fast for us to replenish them. So, we are rejigging our budget to allow for a $93 bi-weekly payment, with a goal of having our car loan paid off by the end of April. This means our frivolous expense budget lines will be more than cut in half. The upside of this is our family will be in better health. Which leads me to the third thing…
I am trying to figure out how I take care of myself physically again. This has been an ongoing struggle for me. I was always the hefty kid growing up, and tended to grow out then up when I had growth spurts. In my early-mid twenties, I managed to get myself down to a fairly fit 185-ish pounds. Maintaining that meant two hours at at the gym a minimum of four days a week, without fail. I ate mostly salads and extremely lean food. I could rarely ever let myself even have any sort of treat that wasn’t made from some alternate, calorie-reduced recipe. And although I looked good (in hindsight, looking at my wedding photos, I might have even been a bit too thin for my frame), but it wasn’t a joyful experience for me. It was really, really hard work.
It’s also the kind of lifestyle you can’t easily maintain with three young kids who love “chick’n nuggets and ‘lellow’ fries.”
So I need to figure some stuff out: where do I get the time to work out (which I do actually enjoy doing)? How do I hold myself accountable? What bad habits have I picked up that I need to put down? What foods need to not be in my house to resist temptation? My goal isn’t to get down to 185 again, but my goal is to be healthy, whatever that looks like.
Those are three lifestyle changes we’re making. Lord willing, the first won’t have been a foolish choice on my part (not because I am anti-minivan, but because I’m anti-debt). This is why it’s very important to us to make the second change work: we really want to get rid of our debt as fast as possible. And, hopefully, I will see some real, sustainable progress on the third over the coming months. As always, if you’re so inclined, prayer is appreciated.