Our First Year of Home Ownership: Hidden Costs
One year ago we moved into our first house! Through diligent savings, we came up with the down payment. Despite our own nay-saying that we could get together that much money, we have arrived! Home ownership is ours! [Trumpets! Fanfare!] Now we are done saving and our previous “frugal apartment” budget is transferable to our new house! [maniacal laughter]
Nope, nope, and… [checks clipboard] nope.
Costs Of Buying a House
Listen, I am damn proud of us pulling out all the stops to make the down payment happen. Having that tangible goal in mind really helped us hone in on our budget and cut excess spending. Since then, we’ve kept roughly the same type of budget. With my husband also getting a raise last year, our savings rate is the best it’s ever been (~41% of our income).
We also had enough money saved to account for closing costs and all of the new, recurring bills that we expected (like HOA fees and property taxes). These expenses were anticipated, and we made sure we had a buffer in our savings account in addition to the down payment. In a vague way, we knew we would spend money on various other things, but we had no idea how much it would actually cost us!
Other House Expenses In The First Year
Washer/Dryer/Refrigerator: These were expenses we knew we would have upon moving in, so we saved a set amount for appliances. We opened up a Lowe’s card to get 5% off the purchase and paid it off immediately with the savings.
Whole House Water Softener: On this, we hemmed and hawed before we got it installed. Ultimately though, we had just lived four years in an area with hard water. Our new house (despite being 35 min away from our previous residence) also had hard water, and we were not-in-the-mood-tat-tall. My skin was begging me. I acquiesced. We opened up a Home Depot credit card and got a promotional 0% interest for 20 months (or something like that). Paid it in installments before the promotional period was up, so no interest accrued.
New Floors: When we moved in there was some real trash carpet downstairs. It didn’t look awful, but anytime I did floor exercises or Yoga, I could smell the previous owner’s dog. Originally we planned to wait a few years before replacing the floors, but admittedly we impulsively decided NAH! I wanted to exercise without being grossed out. Also, I wanted to walk barefoot on the floor and trust I wasn’t walking through old mess. Before we pulled the trigger, we spent a lot of time researching floors and priced for materials/labor.
Gas/Car Maintenance: Now we live in the suburbs, so we pay more for our commute into the city each day (both in time and money). This, we expected, but nevertheless I have to include it. I am hoping to decrease my workload in the next couple of years, and this expense will be slightly reduced.
Outdoor Enclosure: We opted to enclose a portion of our back patio so we could enjoy the outdoors in the winter (complete with a space heater). My husband and handy/awesome step-dad are doing the labor themselves (it’s still a work in progress), so we paid for materials only.
Lawn Service: Having never lived anywhere in our adult lives with a lawn, we unexpectedly became geeks about our grass (husband) and garden (me). The maintenance takes a little work, but we truly enjoy being outdoors and the exercise it provides. For this, we purchased some lawn tools (like a lawn mower…I don’t know the names of the other tools!) and gardening materials (plants, soil, etc). Fear not! We have taken full advantage of “Get off my lawn!” jokes.
Organizers: Despite all of our new space, we don’t have a lot of things, so we haven’t needed to buy too many organizational products. Nevertheless, we did buy racks to mount in our garage for storage. Also, we coughed up money for shelf paper, and I spent several weekends papering all of the surfaces. Any unopened, excess shelf paper was returned to the store.
Alarm System/Cameras: For our own peace of mind, we opted to get an alarm system and security cameras installed. Frankly, I sleep better, so this optional expense is worth it to me. However, if we were hit with a financial catastrophe, we could eliminate this recurring monthly payment.
Miscellaneous: $250/month is budgeted for any and all household expenses/projects. We cash-flowed our back patio enclosure and lawn tools using this monthly stipend. This fund was also used when we decided to purchase a new rug, odd kitchen items, winterize our sprinkler system, and some wall art. Basically, anything for the house, we use this fund. When we want something large, we save a few months worth of this fund for it. And when we’re out of House Fund money, we wait until the following month for another infusion.
Things We Didn’t Buy
Furniture for every single room: Friends of ours were moving out of state and gave us their living room set to use in what we call “The Game Room” upstairs. Our parents and grandparents gifted us a new bedroom set and new living room furniture for downstairs. Our old living room set was smaller than what suited our current living room, so we put that in the loft. We still have 2 completely empty bedrooms upstairs, and we are fine with that. My husband’s uncle gave us a really nice used desk for our office, and my parents gave us a beautiful bookcase they refurbished and stained. Essentially, we were gifted a lot of things from family/friends as Housewarming gifts, and we have purchased very few new furniture items.
Curtains: Just not necessary at this point. If we ever decide to go that route, I would probably enlist my mom to help me sew them. If we’re gonna spend money on them, I’d rather do it to my liking, rather than purchase some ill-fitting curtains.
Decorations: Conveniently when we moved in, my parents happened to be downsizing and getting rid of a lot of household decor. I took anything and everything. This means, our Christmas tree was decked out Cowboy/Western theme, and I have more wicker baskets than a sane person would ever buy (I’m looking at you Mother)! But, I am happy to be able to use what was gifted. In no way is our house bare, rather it’s cozily decorated.
A Grill: There wasn’t room on our apartment patio for a grill, but we enjoy grilling (especially when we were eating meat). We held off on purchasing one, because there were other things we needed to buy. A friend of ours has a business repairing grills, and had a used one he fixed up and gifted to us. It’s way nicer than anything we would’ve ever bought. I literally cried when he brought it over as a surprise (mostly because I was so touched, though I do love grilled food).
Utilities: Surprisingly, our utility bills aren’t more than they were in the apartment, though our square footage is much larger. Thankfully the house is extremely well-insulated, so even a hot Texas summer didn’t cause our electricity bill to increase. If our home wasn’t equipped with solid insulation, we would’ve been sure to check and replace any weather stripping, and increased the foam insulation in the attic.
What Has Home-Ownership Given Us?
Not only did it make sense for us to rent rather than buy in our area, we truly love our home. We are both homebodies in many ways, and this past year has been such a pleasure. I’ve received a lot of joy through setting up and loving on our home, and we’ve been able to host several events, including some holidays! We are looking forward to being here for many years and raising a family in this house.
Did we still spend a ton of money? Yup! Not including the actual price of the mortgage/property taxes/HOA fees, etc. we’ve spent a lot of money this past year. Were all of our additional expenses necessary? Not at all! Could we have found other things for the house to spend our money on? Sure! We bought what we felt was important to us, and skipped what wasn’t.
Having a monthly amount set aside for these various expenses has been so helpful in mitigating any budget-interruptions, while still allowing us to add some personal touches. Also, being willing to accept gifts and second-hand items has been a huge help. It’s all new to us, so we were still able to get the thrill of furnishing our space, at a fraction of the cost.
For Us, It Has Been Worth It
We began the whole process by asking ourselves some searching questions before we even started house-hunting. We weighed the pros and cons of living near work, living in a suburb, small town vs. big city, the commute—all of it. These are choices that suit us, but they wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone. Most importantly, our final decision was thoughtful and thorough.
For example, I have a goal of decreasing work within the next couple of years (I drive all over for work anyway) and my husband works in an upscale part of the city (that we couldn’t afford to live in). Because of this, we accepted we would not live near our jobs. Neither of us are willing to switch professions or employers to work closer to home. This might not be reasonable for someone else, but for us, we understand the trade off and it works.
You guys…The town we moved to has a actual Main Street complete with holiday parades including the local high school band and drill team. For July 4th, we watched a pretty impressive fireworks show—from our backyard! We are fortunate enough to have both of our parents living nearby and our move only brought us closer (awww!)—but literally we live closer to family now. There are local businesses, medical facilities, grocery stores, etc., and we are near enough to the city (about an 8 minute drive) if we need anything our town doesn’t provide. Though home ownership isn’t for everyone, it was for us. The increase in our quality of life isn’t quantifiable. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.