Today I woke up determined to make a bigger dent on working towards that dream life that’s always just a year away. I mean, not to humble brag, but yesterday I was pretty productive…
- New website to be accountable, share tips, and delight others with my varied progress in living a deeply satisfying and organized life? Check. Thanks for stopping by, BTW.
- Update super fancy Erin Condren planner with all the wonderfully interesting/important things I have coming up? Check.
- Marvel at how I don’t have as much going on as I thought I did, then feel a little pathetic about it? Double check.
So I didn’t move any freaking mountains, but I did stuff, and I went to bed feeling not too bad about how I spent my day. And I’m not going to lie, today started off rough, but the new me doesn’t get tired, get sick, or take naps at 9am to avoid her life… She pushes through.
And you know, for a hot minute, it actually worked. I had some cool ideas to implement for work, my husband and I tossed around some ideas for general life betterment, I even got most of a new post hammered out for my website. I almost edited pictures, people!
To top it all off, we got a notice that a 401k loan we took out a billion years ago was finally paid off, freeing up $200 a month. Because I’m basically like a kindergartner in that I still think $20 is a small fortune, getting an extra $2,400 a year in free money is practically winning the lottery. We drifted into the early afternoon with excited discussions on how to spend our little windfall. The possibilities were virtually limitless! Ok, not limitless… Limited to about $200 a month, but still… Woo-hoo!
It’s hard to know where things went off the rails… If I had to guess, it would probably be when we got a notice our rent was going up $400 next August.
In the spirit of truthiness, our landlord is a close friend. For the last two years he’s been renting us a gorgeous, historic house stupid cheap. Seriously, our house could easily be featured in “Country Living,” and we were getting it for less than what people pay for apartments. And our generous landlord/friend has undercharged us so much that he is taking a huge loss on it every month. There is nobody in our city, possibly even the US, who is renting a 3,000 square foot (not including the garage and basement) historic home for what we were paying.
So my husband and I did what any other rational, grateful people in our situation would do when they find out their rent is going up dramatically.
We flippin’ panicked.
My husband and I moved through all of the stages of “increased rent trauma” together:
- Indignation – “He must be joking!”
- Worst case scenario – “We’re going to have to move back to a tiny apartment, change schools, sell all of our stuff, and be miserable”
- Bargaining – “Maybe we can convince him to raise it a little less…”
- Temporary insanity – “Maybe he’ll sell us the house so we can set a cheaper mortgage”
- Baseless accusations – “He’s nuts”
- Pessimism – “Might as well stop cleaning the kitchen, seeing as we have to move in 5 months”
Eventually, we landed back into reality, and the more we thought, the more ungrateful we felt.
“If we weren’t the tenants, he could charge more and get it easy.”
“He has been losing at least $800 a month on us for two years. That’s not fair to him.”
“He did us such a great favor for so long, it really changed our life. We shouldn’t expect that forever.”
And then something amazing happened between my husband and I. We did math. No, that’s not the amazing part.
Between the 401k payment we were paying until about 5 hours ago and our car payment, we were spending almost $600 a month. If we took out a smaller 401k loan to pay off the car, we’d be back to a $150 monthly loan payment… But we’d also have no car payment, leaving us with enough to cover the increased rent. If we stuck to our budget as we have been, nothing would actually change for us financially. Heck, if we were really lucky, we could take our tax refund and repay that 401k loan early.
Am I hoping our rent isn’t going up so dramatically. Um, well… Duh. But at least if it does, we are prepared and it isn’t quite the “everything sucks, call the movers” disaster we were thinking it was.
My point is not that everybody can easily absorb an extra expense, because they can’t always. Up until this morning, we couldn’t either. And this isn’t that kind of blog. You’ll never see me sitting here saying that dumping your Starbucks and your Amazon Prime Membership will free up enough cash to pay all your bills, send you to the Virgin Islands, and still leave enough left over to feel smug when you pass by somebody with designer tea in their hands… Especially since that person is probably me as I’m a believer in a planned for and constructive splurge.
The moral of the story is that, yet again, that life I had planned on next year, which included more disposable income, vacations, and splurges, is just never going to happen like I think it is. Life will always laugh and say “Nice idea. Watch what we do to you now you silly, silly woman.” And that road bump ended up throwing up all sorts of wonderful reminders about gratitude, truly evaluating need vs. want, and acknowledging changes, even ones you don’t like, happen for really legitimate reasons. Getting a lesson in your own selfishness is a pretty humbling thing, let me just tell you.
But if I hadn’t thought about it and started taking steps to live the life I want now, next year would have rolled around and the only thing that would have changed is the rent. But today, I went with that whole “closed doors, open windows” idea, made a new plan, and had a solution.
Can we count that as a victory? A changed mindset?
I hope so, because this afternoon I plan on drinking lots of tea and watching a hell of a lot of Hulu. Changing your life can take an afternoon off to accommodate trash TV when your rent goes up, I think.