life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


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The State of Our Union.

There are so many great things about being married. SO many. For instance, on Monday night I attempted to write a blog describing how thankful I was that I could just sit on the floor and file paperwork while Dayne codes on his laptop on the couch and we both listen to, half-watch, and comment on Dancing with the Stars. Then I stopped because that was all I really had to say and Dancing with the Stars is really not that great. The thing is that there are often random, mundane moments when I love being married for really stupid reasons. It’s kind of like what Dayne’s parents say about going to the hardware store together on a Friday night and how it’s so great. Then there are also moments that are big, significant, and rather awesome when I love being married, but I never think to blog about them?

One of the things I love and hope that we will grow to love more is house-hunting together. So far, we have gone with our realtor (Kay) to look at two real-life, grown-up houses. We’re such adults now!

The first house we looked at is a story that you’d have to hear in person (and I would love to tell you!). I will never do it justice on this blog and I’m frankly scared of the consequences if I publish any details about it. Really.

The second house was totally beautiful, but kind of disjointed for what we’re looking for. What seemed like the master bathroom (double sinks & bathtub) was on the first floor, one of the bedrooms was on the first floor, and the laundry was in the unfinished basement. I always think about raising kids in our first house, and for me those were things that were going to make life a bit difficult with young children. And the location was realistically too far from Dayne’s work.

We’re going to see at least two more houses this weekend – two townhouses and at least two single family homes. I’m really excited about what we’re finding in this area and the possibility that we won’t have to move far, because we both really like where we live right now.

Another thing I’ve been excited about is meeting with a financial advisor, which we did last night. Believe me, I hate budgeting and saving and all kinds of money management scrutiny (on the other hand, Dayne loves it; he could do commercials for mint.com). But we’re working through all that stuff and doing a pretty good job, I think. And as we’re on the cusp of buying our first home, we both wanted to sit down with someone objective and develop a general financial plan going forward.

It’s borderline overwhelming all the things you have to think about when you become an adult, and it hits very suddenly — retirement, emergency savings, interest rates, the DOW, money markets, savings accounts, investments, rent vs. buy, bills, utilities, future children, benefits, insurance, etc.  We dove into almost all of that last night. I have three pages of notes.

After the meeting, I felt great and Dayne felt horrible. Weird, huh?

We talked through it a bit and went to bed with these questions rattling around in our heads: can we afford a house? How does anyone afford a house? Will we be able to start having kids before I turn 35? Should I get a full-time job? Should I get another part-time job? Can we ever go out to dinner? Where can we afford to go for our first anniversary trip (please, please, Hawaii)? Should our price range for houses decrease or should we stretch a bit towards the price range we’re looking at now? Do we need to cut our savings?

Apparently I think in my sleep because I woke up with much more clarity than either of us had last night after our meeting. We’re going to look for cheaper houses and see if we can find one in a good neighborhood (because I won’t sacrifice neighborhood or school district for price). I’m going to look for more employment so that we don’t have to budget SO much, and we can save more. We rely too much on Dayne’s income right now and it would be nice to help out with more than 20 hours/week of pay while I still can (before we have kids).

So I’m job-hunting! Dayne is doing an incredible job in his career and I admire him for that. He is and will continue to be a wonderful provider. I, on the other hand, don’t really have a career and would love to get into a second job or a full-time job that I enjoy and really utilizes my talent and skills.

As a blessing to us, we were offered access to Dayne’s grandparents’ timeshare in the Poconos for almost nothing, and we’re going to get away for a few days in October. I have the travel bug, and I have a really hard time not going anywhere for long periods of time, being stuck in routine. With all the budgeting we’re going through and with money being so tight, there was no way we were going to go anywhere until next summer, so I am incredibly grateful for the gift of this timeshare retreat in the mountains.

With everything – the difficulties and the financial struggles and the house hunting and the mundane fun moments and the big exciting moments – I am just so happy to be going through life with Dayne. It may not be fantastic and easy all the time, but that’s life, and everyday I have a greater appreciation for Dayne as a person and for our marriage. I have to have faith in the person I will become, the person Dayne will become, and how our marriage will grow. So far, so good!

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Apartments A vs. B and What We’re Learning about Money.

All is Future-Talk lately in the wedding department. The event-centered stuff is on hold temporarily (there really isn’t much more to do!), so Dayne and I spent some of the past few days apartment-hunting. We visited some very different apartment complexes, and today we narrowed our choices down to two.

It’s a difficult decision to make because we’re going to start house-hunting when we get back from the honeymoon. We have an awesome realtor-friend (shout-out to Kay!), and we want to take advantage of the low interest rates that are characterizing the housing market right now.

So we want to love our apartment, but not too much. We want to settle in, but not settle down. And we need some really flexible lease terms.

One of our prospects – we’ll call it Apartment A – offers a housing addendum where we’d only have to pay $50/month extra to enable us to freely break our lease with 60-days notice. In theory, that means we’d only have to pay $100 or $150 max to break the lease and become home-owners. This apartment complex has some stylish amenities – a fire pit at the pool, a nice gym, free continental breakfast on the weekdays (!), a big “business center” which offers free wireless printing, and gorgeous open floor plans with notably nice refrigerators and bathtubs.

Apartment B offers short-term leases at higher premiums (but how are we going to guess how long it’s going to take us to find a house?), and it has a pretty severe penalty for breaking the lease early — required 60-days notice and 2 months rent penalty. Their rent is a bit cheaper than Apartment A, but they also have a nonrefundable $350 amenity fee for use of the community pool, tennis courts, sauna, gym, and playground. But they have tennis courts, which is a huge plus for me! They also offer a very unique floorplan which I just fell in love with:

Apartment Complex B is also where Dayne used to live when we first started dating, so it holds some special meaning for us. They also have a wood-burning fireplace in the living room and some really nice built-in shelving.

It’s a tough decision and we’re praying through it (although, to be honest, our first instinct was to just make the decision based on our personal wishes & desires). Which brings me to my next piece of news: Dayne and I started praying together this weekend. I’m bolding it because it’s monumental. I think incorporating spiritual beliefs and practices into any relationship is hard work (and kind of unnatural, unfortunately), and while I’ve wanted our faith to characterize and direct our relationship, it’s been much harder to know how to put that into practice. We’ve been going to church together the whole time we’ve been dating, and we’ve done book studies and looked at the Bible together, but we haven’t prayed together or spent any intimate time reading the Bible together. Until now!!

Another thing that we’ve been talking about/hearing about/learning about, especially at church, is our finances.

Tonight’s sermon was incredibly good – about GIVING. I want that to be my first priority with finances, and I truly believe all that I have is God’s, but I am selfish and I struggle with living out what I believe. It’s so sad when I think about all the money I’ve kept and used for stupid things. Tonight Phil (the pastor) taught this order for what to do with your money when your receive it:

1) giving

2) long-term investment

3) fixed costs

4) short-term savings (goals)

5) spending

All of a sudden it clicked for me really clearly that we need to give before we do ANYTHING else. And Dayne and I are planning to start with 10% (scary to write this down and really commit to it, but we could use some accountability anyway!). We’re also going to read Your Money Counts together (our church has been encouraging using Crown Financial Ministries for money-management).

Our pastor made it really clear that the issue is not really about money, but about LIFE. Our culture teaches us that the way to find life is to accrue and hoard and spend. Jesus teaches us something radically different – that we find life by giving ours away. “Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:8. God is the Ultimate Giver — and we are created in His image!

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Bottom line that I’m learning: money doesn’t make the world go ’round, God does.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” – Matthew 13:44

I pray for Dayne & me: that our relationship would be a reflection of our Savior — of His generosity, compassion, and love. I pray that we will be better together than we are alone, knowing that God has brought us together and intends for us to grow and glorify Him. I pray that the way we handle our finances would draw others toward Him, the Ultimate Giver. And I pray that we would really listen to Him when He tells us where He wants us to live!