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Category Archives: financial freedom

Form, Function, and Finances

Our mowers, our snowblower, and our tiller live under a tarp.  There is no room under roof to house them.  The big barn is consumed by Husband’s business, and the small barn contains the rabbits, the extra freezer, and our manual tools.

As Husband develops a plan to build our house, he has many tools in mind.  But when even the equipment we have must remain outdoors all winter, where are we to store additional items?

A barn!  A barn!  My kingdom for a barn!

Okay, I don’t have a kingdom.  And if I did, I doubt I’d give it up for a barn.

Anyway.

The rabbit barn floods in the spring, when the snow melts and the rains fall.  The plan then, is to build a larger barn on higher ground, and take down the rabbit barn.  (We wouldn’t mind keeping it, but building codes dictate a maximum of two outbuildings.)

I love the look of a barn with a gambrel roof.  It is what the rabbit barn has, and I find it a pleasing design.  It seems that’s what a barn ought to look like.  So, I said I wanted something like this:

image from keystonebarns.com

But Husband found that gambrel roof barns cost about 30 percent more than barns with regular roofs.  And the cost was a lot higher than I expected, having never built a barn before.  I considered lowering my expectations and getting a barn without the classic gambrel roof.  Something like this:

image from barntoolbox.com

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that if we spent money on a barn, it would be just that much longer before we were able to make our house a reality.

Because this is too tiny to live in:

house modelAn agreement was made.  For now, we’ll get a temporary shelter for the equipment.  Something like this:

(Except without the car, of course.)

And for the new tools and for work space while husband labors on the house we’ll also get something like this:

It’s not as pretty, but it’s much more economical, and that will allow us to get started on the house sooner.

Someday, we’ll build a pretty barn.  But today, finances win.

Fruit of the Land

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Today I went out to the new place. I moved a few things over (a small desk, a plant, and some bird feeders and bird food), plus I started removing the decking around the pool. Besides being completely overgrown with six-foot-tall thistles, the decking itself is in poor shape. While pool decking isn’t really high on the priority list, we need to work on things right now that don’t require much money. I don’t get paid in the summer, and we used a good deal of our savings on the down payment — not what Dave Ramsey would have us do, but it seemed to be what God would have us do, and God trumps Dave Ramsey. Anyway, I found myself in need of a bathroom, but since we haven’t figured out the water situation there yet, there is no working plumbing. So, off to the woods I went.

As I returned, I noticed some nice ripe black raspberries on some of the bushes my father-in-law had pointed out to me when he mowed for us the other day. I thought I’d pick a few. Soon, my hands were full, so I went to the house to get a plastic bag to put them in, and returned to picking. While I worked, I noticed some huge wild strawberries. Wild strawberries have almost no flavor, but they were so pretty I couldn’t resist picking a few.

I’m excited that I can already get my very own berries from our land. It isn’t a lot, but I hope the bushes will produce more and more as the years pass. And within a year or two, I hope to plant some strawberries that actually taste good. I foresee pies! And jam! And tarts! Yum!

Moving

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Sometimes God wants us to be content with where we are.

Sometimes He pushes us out of contentment because He wants us to move to something different.

It’s a lesson that has taken me a while to learn.  I had known the one about being content with where we are.  The part about being pushed out of contentment was new to me.  The idea was first introduced by a friend of mine.  She taught second grade for over ten years.  Then, she had a really horrible year.  Her second-grade colleagues were hateful.  One of her students brought a gun to school.  She spent the year upset, stressed out, and exhausted.  Finally, a position opened up in fifth grade, and she thought about taking it, but she wondered if she was just trying to escape, if she was failing in being content.  But over this past year teaching fifth grade for the first time in over a decade — and loving it — she realized that God pushed her out of that situation in order to get her some place different.

Stephan and I have been looking at houses and property for a long, long time.  Probably for eight years, at least.  Just dreaming, hoping that someday we would be able to move out of town and into the country.  Dreaming of the house we’d build.  Dreaming of a place where we would have room to have a big garden, to raise chickens and rabbits and honeybees, room to have his business on our own property instead of renting a place a few miles from home.

Mostly, it just felt like dreaming.  Every couple of years, we’d get on a kick where we’d drive around and look at property, or get online and look at house plans.  But we were never in a financial position to take any action.  We just liked looking.  We’d talk about things we liked and things we didn’t.  We’d just imagine things together.  It was often a fun date on a summertime Sunday afternoon — driving around, looking, talking, dreaming.

Last fall, though, I determined I had to stop looking.  I was getting really discontent.  Every time I looked at a place, I became more dissatisfied with where we were.  And I wanted to be content with where God had us.  Isn’t that what He wants?  For me to be content with where He has me?  So I looked for all the good things about our home.  We have pretty good neighbors.  We can walk to the bank, the park, the library, the post office, the dollar store.  The actual house is pretty nice, and we have improved it since we first moved in.

But this spring, I started to feel closed in.  We have a mere eighth of an acre, and it felt like it was getting smaller every day.  The privacy fence felt confining rather than secluding.  The neighbors seemed too close.  The yappy dogs never seemed to stop barking.  The trains that rumbled by on the tracks just a block and a half away seemed to get louder (as if that were even possible!)  I felt like insanity was creeping in, but I tried to push it down.  I tried to force myself to be content, but it was hard.  I felt closed in.  I couldn’t breathe.

On Sunday, May 4, I finally broke down.  I was just so unhappy.  After church, my friend and my sister-in-law noticed that something wasn’t right, and I just began to sob.  I haven’t cried so hard in years.  It was the kind of crying where jagged breaths take over and you can’t talk at all.  I felt like I was being completely stupid.  God had given us this great house in a great neighborhood, and all I could think about what how much I hated where we were living.  They prayed with me.  I went home, and struggled for a while in putting words to my tears, but I finally was able to explain it to Stephan.  We decided that we would begin looking again.  We could be prepared and open, but not put our hope in anything we might find.  Our financial position is far better than it was three or four years ago, so it wasn’t a complete fantasy to think that possibly we could afford something.

That Tuesday, I began to think that maybe God pushed me out of my contentment for a reason.  Maybe He wanted me to prepare to move, to think about and look at land and houses.  But I couldn’t figure out why.  Sure, we’ve saved a decent amount of money over the past several years, but I didn’t think it would be enough for a down payment on property.  And our own home is not market-ready.

Thursday we looked at a house.  The property was nice, but the house was too big and the price was too high.  Stephan also decided he wanted to have at least five acres so that the county can’t restrict things like livestock.  I felt a little more discouraged because I couldn’t fathom having the kind of money a five-acre plot of land would require.  But we thought that in the next three years, we could save enough, and in the meantime, we could keep looking and be prepared.

Friday, May 9, I was reading Deuteronomy.  Chapter 28, verse 8 says, “The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.”

Saturday, May 10, we looked at another place.  It was on five absolutely beautiful acres.  It had everything we wanted: a pole barn for the business; open, full-sun area for a big garden; wooded area for hikes and hunting; lots of mature trees in the yard.  There was an old manufactured home that needed work, but we thought it was workable until we could afford to build our own.  And the property was bank-owned (as the result of a foreclosure), so the price actually seemed doable for us.  Now.  Not in three years.

Most of all, I felt like I could breathe.  And that was a feeling I hadn’t had in months.

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We checked on financing.  It seemed possible.

On Friday, May 16, we made an offer.  The following Monday the bank-owner made a counter-offer.  We countered back.  On Thursday, May 22, our counter-offer was accepted, and on Friday the 23rd, Stephan and I signed paperwork to make the offer official.

And today, we closed. This property is ours.

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What’s New

It’s still cold and snowy, and that makes people like my husband and me happy.  Okay, I admit that Stephan’s happier about it than I am, but I like it too.  I’d much rather have this weather than 34 degrees and rainy.  The only difficulty is that school keeps getting delayed or canceled.  It’s hard […]

About that emergency fund…

A few things that prevent us from getting our emergency fund complete as quickly as I’d like:

1. A totaled 1999 VW Passat with transmission issues.  Money has been going into the new car fund instead of the emergency fund.  We’re looking for a reliable, used, four-door hatchback.  The Passat still runs, so we’re not in a hurry, but the more we save for the car, the better car we can get.  And that slows down the emergency fund.

2. A 2001 Frigidaire washing machine with a broken doomafloppy.  I don’t remember what the part was, but the machine made a terrible knocking noise on the spin cycle.  We had a repairman come out ($75) and he told us that yes, it could be fixed, but that to fix it would cost more than a new washer.  So, we spent around $800 for a new washer and installation.

3. Christmas.  We like to give gifts, so some money that would have ordinarily gone into the emergency fund has gone into the gifts category for the last couple of months.

I’m not loving the delays.  But we’ll get there eventually, right?

 

A Goal in Mind

The husband and I have lived in the same home for a dozen years now.  We like it here.  The house is old and has character.  The neighborhood is nice, and we are in walking distance from the park, our bank, the Dollar General, several gas stations, the library, and a couple of decent restaurants.

Still, we have dreams of something else.

Dreams of living on some acreage, of having his business on our own property, of tending a large garden.  We’d like fruit trees, and maybe some chickens.  We can’t do any of that where we are now.

We’ve got our eye on some property just three miles from where we live now.  It’s a dump.  The house is falling down, and the two outbuildings on the site need to be demolished.  The grass is waist-high and littered with trash.  The trees are overgrown.

But it’s got potential.

The property reminds us of ourselves, and how we are kind of a mess sometimes.  But God sees the value in us and redeems us, not only from our sin, which is amazing enough, but from our ridiculous, sloppy selves.

This property can be redeemed.  Though it would take a lot of work, several Dumpsters, a serious chainsaw, and a Bush Hog to uncover it, we know there is beauty there.

We don’t know if it’s in God’s plan for us to have that land, but we’re praying about it and we’ve made a plan in the meantime.  Our consumer debt is gone, and we just refinanced our home for a lower rate and shorter term.  Now we have a goal to increase our emergency fund and then begin saving for some land, whether it be this property we like or another place God may show us.

And since Dave Ramsey says to put your goals on paper, we did that, too.

And because I like charts, I made one.

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I’ll probably do a happy dance on the day I can completely color that second bar.

Until that time, we will continue to pray and dream.

It’s March. Therefore, we’re broke.

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Stephan realized it long before I did, but after he mentioned it, I realized it’s true.  Every March, we are short on funds.

I’m not sure why it happens.  Maybe it’s because we spent a lot on Christmas.  Not that we have debt from Christmas shopping, mind you, but if the money goes toward gifts, then it is diverted away from other things for the time being.  You know, things like buying toothpaste and getting oil changes.  Things that you have to do eventually but can sometimes can put off for a bit… until you can’t put them off anymore.

Part of it is because, while my income is steady and predictable, Stephan’s is not as much.  Well, it’s moderately predictable in its ups and downs, but it’s not what I’d call steady.  While his business seems flush with cash in December and early January, income dips in late January and February.  Plus Stephan has more travel expenses in the first quarter of the year than at any other time as he drives or flies to Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, Wyoming, Alaska, and Northwest Territory for competitions.  And of course, it doesn’t help that people owe him money that they haven’t paid yet.

So every March, we feel a little strapped.  This year is better than previous years.  We are at last finished paying off all our credit cards (hooray!) and we have savings to pull from if we need to.  We’re not desperate by any means.  We have money for groceries, for birthday presents, and for a little vacation we’re taking this month.  We’re not struggling financially.  But I couldn’t put as much into savings as I’d have liked to when I did the budget this week, though there is some money going toward building the emergency fund.  I reduced our “fun money” category a smidge.  And all that is okay.  That’s part of being responsible.  That’s part of the steps we take toward financial freedom.