But it sure can make our lives easier!
Remember what, 13 years ago?
We were about to move to a new city (well, technically we were about to drive to Canada, but in a few weeks it would be a new city). We had about 4K total to our name, much of it saved up from my work-study jobs in college. When we got to the city, we slept on the floor of a friend from college at night and searched for housing during the day. We ended up in a tiny 10×10 apartment. We had to borrow money from my parents to put down a deposit. We walked everywhere because we couldn’t afford the 70 cents to take the subway until school started and we got our subway passes along with our stipends. We bought used kitchen equipment for $20 and a terrible desk for $10 from some people who were leaving, and a new futon for $120 and a paste-board dresser for $80. As the pastor who married us suggested, we ate a lot of macaroni and cheese.
We bought an overpriced bed with that first stipend (after paying my parents back), and a Le Creuset pot. I remember calling my dad before making the purchase because he’s the most skin-flinty person I know. He argued that we spend more time on the mattress than any other place and it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Also Le Creuset pots last forever. In retrospect, we should have tried to bargain the guy down on the mattresses, but it did last 10 years without problem (although the salesman swore it would be good for 15). We had to put that purchase on three different credit cards because we didn’t have enough of a line of credit to put it on one. The guys at the shop said they broke up purchases like that all the time.
We ate mostly vegetarian and lots of cheap starches. We’d go to the open air market once a week and stock up on veggies, and then we’d rush home to process them before they went bad. Soon after school started, we got an offer to move to student housing– a two room 10×30 apartment for the same price. We jumped at the chance and broke our lease. We didn’t lose all of our deposit though because our old place filled up very soon after we left. After a year we had enough saved to pay for car insurance, and we retrieved my car from my sister, complete with shiny new dents. (That a lot of random people in the city wanted us to know they could fix whenever they saw us in a parking lot.)
After two years there, we moved to be RAs. Our apartment was still two rooms, but smaller, and we shared a kitchen with the students. Saving 20K/year on rent, we were able to save quite a bit of money. We bought a video projector which we still have. I can’t believe we just had to get a new bulb for it. We’re growing older, my beautiful love.
After two years of that, we realized we’d need more time to finish our dissertations, and left the students. We had a hard time deciding between a smaller apartment and greater savings or a bigger apartment and finally having some space to ourselves, maybe getting a cat. One of your labmates told us her apartment building had two openings, and we visited, and we picked a large apartment. It was expensive and falling apart, but oh, in such a lovely neighborhood. And the kitchen was tiny and awful, so we had a granite-top bureau made to extend the kitchen space to our dining room. We also impulse-bought an expensive butcher block that we don’t need and has been a pain to move, and a lovely dining room table. Our dining room here looks a lot like our dining room there, though we no longer use the butcher block except to hold our knives. We traveled out to the suburbs and bought a living room set and felt a little bit like grown-ups.
Before we even moved in, we drove out to a no-kill shelter and got our kitties. The baby who had had babies, so tiny and yellow who became my best friend when I gave her chicken and who cleaned up to a lovely lively white and black cutie within a few days of not being surrounded by scary big cats. The big kitty who loved on you just the right amount at the shelter and has the same heart condition as your grandma. They’re currently reminding you of their presence through generous gifts of cat-hair, just as they have every summer.
An increase in income and change in location meant we could upscale our food choices. Whole foods, Trader Joe’s… but we still walked to the local grocery too. The walk to WF was nicer. Heck, our entire neighborhood was lovely. What a change from our first 4 years. The radiator may not always have worked correctly and might have been prone to flooding, and the water from the pipes might sometimes have been dangerous, but we still loved that apartment.
And then with one thing and another we got jobs and with the money we’d saved we had a housing down-payment equivalent to what we’d need if we were paying on mortgage what we’d paid on rent. Silly us, we thought we’d need a house this big. But it’s a lovely house. And somehow right at the top of our price range… the most expensive place we looked at.
When we first got here, after the downpayment and expected and unexpected fees and emergency expenses, we couldn’t afford to buy a w/d, or rather, we could get cheap ones, but we wanted nice ones. So you took our laundry to the local laundromat/pub. (Why don’t more towns have that combination?) We were about to get new furniture when our planned second car purchase got pushed up by an F150′s sudden stop. And then suddenly we had a baby and money and no time to get more furniture. But we didn’t need it– toys from your parents and children’s books from mine ended up filling every available space.
We finished furnishing the house right before going on sabbatical. Pardon, Faculty Development Leave. We don’t have sabbaticals. People suggested putting pictures on the wall so the place didn’t seem so bare. So we did, from one of those cheap home furnishings places. I’m not sure if it helped. We split that living room set across the two living rooms. Eventually we rented the place out, even though it was furnished.
We’d saved a year’s spending to go on that faculty development leave, and we enjoyed it to the fullest extent. I wonder if we’ll have another year like that again. In the end, we still had money leftover and made a pretty big dent in our mortgage when we got back. You tried out the self-employment lifestyle that year and liked it, even though your company didn’t bring in very much. But we didn’t mind. Your business partners though, their wives didn’t make quite as much as yours, and they didn’t like each other as much as they both liked you. And so the experiment ended and we went home to our regular jobs.
Back at home you toyed with keeping your job, maybe going into administration. But your heart wasn’t in it. So we started thinking about what we could do to make you happy with your career. And we unexpectedly needed to start DC1 in private school. And DC2 came along. And now you’ve been self-employed for a month or so.
And here we are today. Still working things out. Happy that we saved so much so that we can have the freedom to try new things. That we can spend on what’s important. That we can not worry so much about so many things that aren’t important when you have money but are terrifying when you don’t.
I love you so much. I hope that we have decades and decades more of saving and spending and living and loving together. Life without you would be nowhere near as rich.
Related: A year ago today.