The kiddos keep me hopping. K-daughter got accepted to a college 2 hours away, which has me simultaneously proud-as-punch and also biting my fingernails at the prospect of losing her next fall. N-son has found a New-Orleans-style drum teacher, and life in our home will never be as quiet again. And I heard just last week that two years of paperwork finally resulted in qualifying J-son for our local dyslexia center. Hallelujah!
My new bike -- the Sudden Painful Death Machine -- hasn't gotten much use yet, mostly because I'm a wimp about riding a bike on ice. (Or just a wimp about bikes in general? For now, let's blame the ice). But the triathalon training has nonetheless proceeded apace, with some seriously long distance running under my belt, getting ready for a marathon I'll do with a passel of friends this upcoming Saturday.
Ooh -- oooh -- oooooh! But what I really wanted to say was this:
Three weeks ago, my husband and I completely paid off our mortgage.
Woo-hoo! We celebrated by taking a leisurely 20-mile run together (which we were going to do anyway, but it felt a lot better doing the run as a "celebration" than as yet-another-multi-hour training run).
And having finally zeroed out this balance, I just want to shout: Frugality Works! It does!
On the one hand, paying off a mortgage in just 16 years might not seem like a huge feat. After all, my husband and I both make significant piles of money, and my penny-pinching ways are legendary. So maybe zeroing out the mortgage in 16 years seems rather ho-hum.
But our marriage has sailed along in turbulent financial waters, with many dangerous reefs and tides and heavy headwinds. Not the least of these were a few huge obligations we started out with, like . . .
- We bought the house with no money down and with completely-wiped-out savings. Don't even ask me how that happened -- at the start of our marriage, I just assumed my husband knew what he was doing when he figured a down-payment would come along. It took about six months into our marriage before I took over handling our finances, and a year into our marriage before we realized that he was always overly optimistic about money. By then, it was too late to move our sizable clan to something less costly.
- We entered the marriage committed to paying in full for one of his daughters' very expensive private schooling (grades K-12), and also to other very non-Miser-Mom types of clothing/grooming/activity costs. These expenses combined to a significant fraction of my husband's paycheck for almost all of our marriage so far. We're glad we did this, but the expense has been nonetheless significant.
- Even after I took over the finances and we understood the challenges ahead of us, my husband did not become a convert to The Frugal Way of Life. So we learned to live (happily, I swear) in a marriage where he'd buy Starbucks Lattes and expensive bikes, and I'd figure out a way to buy clothing for my two sons and me for an entire year for only $60.
- Several times during our marriage, my husband's job situation got extremely rocky. At one point, he was laid off. After a few months of severance pay, he began freelancing and eventually got a full-time job again. In 2009, he spent the year soldiering in Iraq at a much lower salary (but he actually spent so little for once, that we still managed to save a bit of money).
But our time together hasn't entirely been one of deprivation and suffering, focused only on a joyless version of scraping by. In fact, along the way, we've managed to do a bunch of things that I look back on with a warm glow of pride. Like these:
- We helped to rear three beautiful girls who (as of May) will all have graduated from college. Because of re-marriages/grandparents/employer benefits, it's hard to calculate just what fraction we contributed to each child's tuition, but it wasn't mere peanuts in any of the cases.
- We adopted N-son and J-son out of foster care and unofficially co-opted K-daughter. We've also begun the process of adopting a teenage boy from Haiti.
- We spent a bunch of optional money --- about half of the original purchase price of the house -- insulating it and air-sealing it so that it's about one-third more energy efficient than it was when we bought it.
- We've bought three different vehicles; we gave two old cars to friends who needed them, and during the time we owned a large van, we shared it around with all sorts of friends and church groups.
- And we donated a lot of money to charity. It didn't feel like a lot of money at the time, but I recently went over our records since we got married, and was surprised to find how it adds up. We have actually given more money to charity than the purchase price of our home.
I'll post a bit more on Wednesday and Friday; then I'll go back to math and marathons.