Itching to move

Since Quinland started college, I’ve been trying to think of ways to save money. We canceled cable. We quit paying for (but not going to) Southwest Community Center. We decided to no longer pay anyone to walk our dog or (periodically) clean our house, tasks that are tough for me to plan for since my energy levels are all over the map. It seemed, though, that all my ideas were just drops in the bucket.

So I looked more closely at our expenditures. The one that jumped out at me, more than any other, was how much we spend on our home for mortgage, property taxes, and utilities.

I should start by saying that we live in a great house. It’s not the fanciest; it hasn’t really been updated since it was built in 1990. It’s not in one of the “hot” Portland neighborhoods; it’s smack in the middle of an area that doesn’t really have much within a walkable distance, and is hilly and has no sidewalks, to boot. Parts of our street are not paved by the city, and the nearest cross street is a washed-out gravel road. However, it is BIG, and it was really inexpensive on a per-square-foot basis. We like deals, and we had a ton of stuff, so it seemed like a good fit for us. We’ve loved having an above-ground finished basement (aka “double down”) where Quinland and his friends can hang out and stay up late and make tons of noise and not disturb us at all.

But if I was embarrassed before by how many square feet each of us had to live in (we can each pee on a different floor!), it is even worse now that Quinland is away at school. Although we’ve managed to stuff every last bit of it, two people don’t need this much space, especially when it costs so much to heat!

A few weeks ago, I started checking out the Zillow app (which is super fun) and keeping tabs on what was out there. I realized that if we moved two miles west, we’d be in a neighboring county with much lower property taxes. Now I’m checking for new listings every day, bothering my real estate agent about various houses, and trying to talk up the whole moving thing with David.

He doesn’t want to move. He figures we can realize a similar level of savings by renting out the basement. He doesn’t think we could fit into a smaller house, nor does he think our house is ready to sell. He’s correct on all counts.

But oh! I am ready for a new place, a new start, a chance to find a home that’s perfect to downsize into. The market is great for sellers, and…

Sigh. I can wait. There is time. Houses will continue to be sold. We can use this time to look into converting the basement to a rental. I can pare down our belongings to a reasonable number. Who knows? Maybe we’ll decide to just rent an apartment, one of those glorious places where somebody else deals with calling people to cut down the tree that is over the broken water main…

Is it weird that we can afford to travel like this?

Speaking of weird, I look like the mothership has just returned for me in that photo.  Anyway…

I know it is unusual for a family to take a six-month trip anywhere, let alone to pack up and go to Europe.

I do; I know that. I am incredibly lucky to have a chance to do it, to have a boss who understood how important it was to me to do it now, to have friends at work who are the ones who are making it work.

But I don’t feel like I am able to take this trip because I am rich.

Again, I know that I am “rich” in many ways. We have two incomes and we are both healthy enough to work, for now. We have jobs and cars and a house and medical insurance. Many people don’t. We are undeniably rich in those things. But many other people who have all these things think they could never afford to travel like this.

The thing is, we are able to afford this trip because we have been saving for twenty years. Twenty years of used furniture and shopping at Goodwill and decorating in “Early Hand-Me-Down” style and rarely going out (except for way too many Dollar Menu hamburgers) and being as frugal as we know how, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When I hear “Oh, it must be nice!” I think, it IS nice, but we had a whole bunch of not-so-nice while other people lived it up in little ways that added up over the months and years. Heck, that’s even true about the trip itself! We are renting apartments wherever possible because its cheaper than even youth hostels in most cities, especially since – with a kitchen – we can cook for ourselves and save on eating out. We go to museums on the free days and eat in the cheaper tascas, and we aren’t paying for any tours or guides or even souvenirs, for the most part. Would it be fun to stay in a fancy hotel and eat at amazing restaurants and buy fabulous souvenirs and mail them home? You bet it would! I’d love it. But we could only stay two weeks at that rate of spending, instead of 24. This is better, for us.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m contemplating not posting it. It is sooo not meant to be a “Look what we did!” post, but a “Look what you can do!” one. I especially don’t want anyone to think that I was always happily frugal all those years; you can get David to verify that! But now, I must say, I am happy with the end result.

Daily Check In:

  • I’m grateful! to everyone who helped make this trip a reality, and especially to David, for cracking the whip. (I’m kidding; I take care of the finances, but I have certainly learned how to be a cheapskate through his shining example.)
  • I’m lighter! by about 4 hours of sleep… argh. I really need to get this sleeping problem under control. It’s just that I would so much rather blog than sleep…