I wanted a house. The rental market in my city is wacky, and a one-bedroom inside the beltway is as much as a monthly mortgage payment. Of course, a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t come with as much upkeep, but it also doesn’t come with the ability to have one fifty pound dog AND a sixteen pound one. I’m not giving up my dogs, therefore, home ownership – or home mortgageship – made the most sense.
One of the reasons I wanted to pay off my student loan debt quickly was so I could buy a house. I did not want to manage debt payments and a house payment. Plus, I couldn’t afford anything in my desired neighborhood when I still had the debt. Once I paid it off, I qualified for more mortgage. I needed it in order to land a place in or near my target area.
To take on one debt, I had to eliminate the other. I traded student loan debt for a mortgage and took a little comfort in the fact that at least I had an asset. I had a house. It’s tangible. Unlike the educations we buy, a house is a purchase we can imagine as an investment. Unlike the educations we buy, a house is a purchase we can unload if we need to.
Even before I started paying off my debt, I dreamed of owning a house outright. I kept it in sight through the entire debt payoff journey. I kept it in sight through house hunting. I kept it in sight when I signed the closing papers. I hope to one day pay off my mortgage early, although I don’t have an actual date in mind. Truthfully, I’m not trying to see one.
I’m not trying to pay off my mortgage early because I don’t have the money. I don’t have the money because, out of two paychecks a month, one entire paycheck is eaten by the mortgage payment. That entire check covers the minimum. I’m not even making extra payments. I’m simply handing over half my income to my hungry hungry mortgage. I watch the balance every month. It’s terrifying how much I feed it, and how little it actually gets fed.
One whole check goes to the house and one whole check pays for utilities and groceries (and vet bills, etc.) I do manage to put anywhere between 8 and 10% of my salary into my company’s retirement plan. I pay for my health insurance. After those pre-tax contributions, I’m left with enough in one paycheck to pay for my lodging.
This is not an ideal situation. And, honestly, I did not envision it happening this way. When I was paying off debt, I was happily side hustling and bringing in extra income. I simply believed I would continue to do so, therefore I’d have money to save, invest, and pay down the mortgage with. Instead, six months into home ownership, I needed a break. I dropped the side hustles. I started to develop a new vision for myself. But, I also started to miss the extra money.
I gave extreme frugality the old college try. It didn’t last long. Too many maintenance issues came up, and I threw up my hands and went into spend mode. I’m still spending. And I don’t have a side gig in sight.
Did I stretch myself too thin? Maybe. I mean, I’m covering my bills. On good months, I do have some left over to save. I just don’t have the big chunks of extra money that make life much, much easier. Life would be so much easier if I could somehow make $3,000 in the next few months and another $3,000 in the few months after that. I could pay for my crawlspace work. I could pay for LASIK.
The choices are simple: go back to the hustle or take on some debt or learn to be patient and postpone crawlspace work and LASIK until…a long, long time in the future. Because even with extreme frugality, the margins are slim.
I’m glad to have the house. I hosted Thanksgiving and it was lovely. I spent time this weekend organizing my home office and I made huge progress. I did all of my laundry. My dogs played in the yard. It’s starting to feel like home.
A home that eats half my income.