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High School Reunions and Financial Success…

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Yesterday, my husband notified me we would have guests – one hour before their expected arrival time. I think he does this on purpose because I keep a clean house but I tend to go a little over the top when we have guests over. I wash the baseboards, scrub the fan blades, clean the oven… you get it. The more time I have, the more likely I am to get to cotton swab level.

Then, he casually mentioned that the guests were old high school buddies and this was really important to him.

On the inside, our home is nice. On the outside… well, let’s just say we usually wait until the sun has set and our guests have had a glass or two (preferably three) of Chardonnay. We can’t afford landscaping so our yard is a grouping of well mowed weeds and raked dirt piles.

Before we went on this recovery from debt diet, we had planned to landscape our backyard and remodel our 50 year old kitchen. Take out another loan – it would have been so easy. But now, we’re living within our means and paying off debt. It will likely be another 5 years before we can pay cash.

It’s hard to deal with the pressures of keeping up with our peers. It’s hard to not feel a little embarrassed at our less than presentable yard (though to be fair, his friends had nothing but nice things to say).

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel frustrated but…

It’s not hard to feel relief from the lifting debt. Seeing we’re only about a year away from being debt free is like breathing again.


16 Comments

  • Reply G |

    Live like no one else does and one day you’ll live like no one else does.

    Don’t try to keep up with others. Remember when you hit financial freedom to teach others how to do it. You can make the world a better place by example first.

  • Reply pharmboy |

    well, now I feel better. I have a (read: singular)raked pile of dirt, maybe I’ll try seeding it this fall and see if the country club offers me a membership.

  • Reply Abby |

    Beks, I hear you! One of the best gifts I ever got was a comment from a friend. “Oh, just say ‘that’s where we going to put the sunporch, we’re thinking of maple for the kitchen,’ and keep moving,” she advised.

    I later realized that she and her husband were among the most financially sane couples we knew – the kind who live below their means, stay debt free and save, save, save.

    Over time, her comment has helped me relax. Yes, I still clean baseboards and worry about running out of coffee mugs- but then I hear Val’s voice, and it really centers me.

    So just say, “We’re considering azaleas, maybe a water feature …” and smile!

  • Reply Looking for Freedom |

    Well, that was refreshingly honest. Great post. This makes me feel a little better about the blemishes in our house (badly dented floors, stained carpets) and outside of it (siding needs some TLC, grass looks like crap, wood frame around back door is showing early signs of rot…)

    If we didn’t have such a precious life goal, I think we’d be tempted to pour more money into the house. I could see myself getting new flooring, granite countertops, fresh siding, etc. etc. etc. I just have to remember that right now none of it NEEDS to be fixed, and it’s better to focus on saving than fixing.

    I go overboard with cleaning, too. I haven’t vacuumed in seven days and I am starting to shake like a nervous chihuahua as a result. 😉

  • Reply Mrs. Smith |

    Ouch, I know how you feel!
    I’m sure they were most interested in/impressed by the company of you & your husband and NOT the decor or landscaping though.

    You got some great advice!

  • Reply Nicole |

    Just remember that most of those friends who have the fancy cars, beautifully landscaped yards and updated kitchens, are probably knee-deep in debt. Keep plugging away Beks, it’s worth it!

  • Reply Carrie...On The Cheap |

    I remember my mom scrubbing our house furiously before guests came over when I was a kid. I would always wonder why she stressed out so much and couldn’t understand why she cared so much about our house being presentable to guests. 15 years late – I get it!

    It’s hard not to care what other people think, but you just gotta care about what’s best for you in the end. I think it’s great that you’re working to pay off your debt when you could have taken a loan to pretty up your house. What’s more important – debt free or a couple compliments from your friends? Keep it up.

  • Reply David @ DINKS Finance |

    “It’s hard to deal with the pressures of keeping up with our peers. It’s hard to not feel a little embarrassed at our less than presentable yard (though to be fair, his friends had nothing but nice things to say).”

    Just remember you are doing it the hard, but better way. It would be easy to just go beyond your means and spend money you don’t have. Usually the easy way is not always the right way. If you spend to keep up with peers (who most probably are in debt) you will find yourself in a deeper hole.

    -DC

  • Reply fern |

    I don’t think your husband’s being very considerate to give you all but an hour’s notice that you’re having overnight company. I would make a rule. 24 hours notice required.

  • Reply fern |

    Better yet, he should ASK you, not inform you. This is the 21st century, after all.

  • Reply Susan |

    Hi – I strive to have my yard look as if we live there, but we aren’t master gardeners! Home ownership is basically a circle – you just keep going around and around the house and yard doing what needs to be done. There is always way more to spend money on than money. Embrace your 1950’s kitchen and put up some curtains from that era! It will look as if you intended to have a 1950’s kitchen. I love the idea of just saying some fantastic idea you have and move on!

  • Reply Sylvia |

    I totally understand your situation. Our house is 20 years old, and it seems like I can’t turn around without seeing something that needs replacing: flooring, bathtubs, cabinets, windows, the cracked driveway. I used to tell myself that as soon as the house was paid for, we’d finally start making some improvements. Then I realized that we’ll pay off the mortgage the same year that our oldest goes to college with three siblings following in the next five years. Guess the driveway’s going to have to wait a while longer…

  • Reply Thankful |

    Ahh, well-mowed weeds. I know that lawn as well 🙂 I feel your pain, having also planned to make renovations and having to give it up in an attempt to do things right. If it makes you feel any better, we’ve kept a bowl underneath the garbage disposal to catch leaks for months. We’ve finally saved the cash and I can’t WAIT to replace it.

  • Reply Jenn |

    We started building our “dream home” 17 years ago. We sold our first little home and lived in my parents unfinished basement for 2yrs while we cut down trees and built. We moved in November of 1993 thinking we had a couple of months of work left to do… Now it’s November 2009 and there are still a couple of jobs that still haven’t been done. The house has looked finished for several years, but we know there is a stash of crown molding we’ve never installed, and the kids bathroom still has the “temporary” vanity we installed until we designed/built a custom one. Our landscaping is partially done. We had the interlocking walkways and retaining walls installed 4yrs ago, but we haven’t planted anything. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t redo anything in the house until everything was done the first time. So until we get those last few tasks done we stick with the current paint colors and clean the carpet rather than replace. At this point I’m reeealy glad we invested in quality materials and they’re holding up well. For the past year we’ve only spent money on things that have actually broken (water softener, dishwasher, front door lock/handle). When an undone repair is damaging the house (leaking roof or plumbing) or something is unsafe (electrical/fire issues) they unfortunately need to be adressed sooner than later. For those with a planned maintenance fund these type of problems aren’t a problem, but when you are suddenly without a job or have had multiple emergencies in a short time, it’s tempting to delay repairs. For the repairs that simply have to get done NOW, maybe your have some cheap or free options. Can a patch job temporarily hold until you save for a proper repair? Do you know someone with the skills to do the repair and can you swap your skills in exchange for the work?

    We’re in a period of forced ultra-frugality attempting to set aside the funds to cover my impending layoff. My company is in bancruptcy protection and I expect to be layed off in late January. I’m hunting for a new job, but in case there is a gap between jobs I need to be prepared. Once I’m settled in my new job I’ll go back to putting any extra savings toward paying off the mortgage, with a small amount set aside for the final house projects. I’m not a big gardener so committing funds to finishing the landscaping is always my last priority. I know it would look great but then I’ll have to maintain it and apparently I’m just lazy!

So, what do you think ?