As soon as we decided that we are going to buy a house in Truckee -- just north of the amazing Lake Tahoe, in the world's (I think) prettiest mountains, the Sierra Nevada range -- I pretty much lost the ability to focus on anything else.
So daily conversations with Mark have gone something like this:
Me: We can buy this year, right? We've worked so hard to save up!
Mark: If we wait until next year, we can put 20% down, and not pay PMI.
Me: But if we buy this year, we could still get to over 20% equity first thing next year, and we'd only pay a few months of PMI, which is no big thing, right? Only a couple of dollars a month for, like, three months tops.
Mark: But we might not get as good an interest rate if we don't have 20%.
Me: But we could also look at lower priced fixer-upper houses, which would let us buy this year and have a whole house full of fun DIY projects!
Mark: But don't we want a house that doesn't need any immediate projects to be completed in order to be liveable? Better to wait until next year, so that we will have more options at a broader price range.
Me: But if we wait until January 2012, then there will be snow on the ground, and we won't be able to see the full property that we'd be buying, and I don't like that idea. Better to house hunt in the summer and fall when we can really see what we'd be getting.
Mark: Then we should look in summer and fall 2012.
I am REALLY FLIPPING EXCITED (and more than a little impatient) to make our house in the mountains dream come true, especially now that it actually feels within reach. But there's that whole sticky wicket of money. Humbug.
Inspired in no small part by the crazy Extreme Couponing special on TLC, I have decided that if having 20% to put down no matter what is Mark's bottom line, then with God as my witness, I will get us to 20% in the bank just as soon as humanly possible!
Step 1: No more living large. (At least for now.) As a dual income, childless couple, we have certainly had some splurges here and there, especially in the restaurant department. (See our recent trip to NYC for proof.)
And other than getting too much takeout instead of cooking at home and going out to eat in this pricey city of ours, our other biggest expenditure is skiing and travel for skiing. We're not willing to give up skiing entirely, but we've scrapped our MLK Day trip to Mammoth, both to save money, and to spend some concerted time on the kitchen renovation. When we go to Utah in February and Colorado in March, we'll be staying in condos with lots of other people, which keeps the per-head cost pretty low. And we'll avoid the 'spensive resorts in favor of lower-cost (and our preferred) mountains like Alta.
Step 2: Smarter grocery purchasing. I will confess that I have been a lazy shopper. I buy what looks good, I don't compare prices, and we often let produce go bad before we use it (this always makes me feel like a big eco-grinch). But Extreme Couponing taught me that we should comparison shop, and buy most things when BOTH they are on-sale at a given store AND I have a coupon for them on top of the sale price. Generally, I think that buying solely on coupons makes for eating a lot of overly processed food, so we're not going to do this exclusively. But, for example, Mark doesn't care if I buy him Dannon or Yoplait yogurt, so why not buy the one that's cheaper? Ditto for cereal. He likes a whole bunch, so I'll buy the best value. And if my lunchtime Lean Cuisines go on some crazy sale, I'll buy as many as our freezer can hold, rather than just a few and end up paying more the next time.
My grocery lists and coupons for three stores that are all close by one another. (I wouldn't be willing to drive all over town to pull this off. Time is money, after all.) A little online research will tell you what each store has on special, which makes coupon matching way easy.
Step 3: Cook more. Eat out less. This one is a no-brainer. We just have to be less lazy and do it. And I need to shop smarter and use a little meal planning to make it possible.
Step 4: Maximize what we can get out of our current home. The biggest x-factor in getting us to our target savings goal is what we can get out of our current condo. Though West LA has not seen the massive declines that so many other areas have, there are still plenty of foreclosures keeping prices depressed. So we need to make sure that our place stands out. Though our many improvements should mean that our place shows well, we need to finish the kitchen and finish up those little odds and ends that make the place incomplete. Another strategy to get more out of selling it: going the for sale by owner route. So I've been reading up, and feel like we can totally handle it ourselves. Such a big part of selling is marketing, and I'm about 100% overpaid by my ad agency employer if I can't even market my own home.
So that's the new world order. And now to see if we can actually stick to this plan!
Truckee images found here and here.
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