Thinking of downsizing to balance your family finances?
We finally did it. After years of thinking about selling our house and downsizing all our bills, we put the sign in the yard and found ourselves a new neighborhood.
Do people think we’re crazy? Yes, most of them do, although everyone has been too polite to say this out loud.
Do we think we’re crazy? Yes, a little bit. It depends on the day and the exact struggle. I mean, we traded a five-year old house in a tidy new subdivision for an eighty-five year old house in a well-established, slightly grittier part of town.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, is all I’m saying. If you have this nagging desire to pay off debt or lower your property tax bill or have less house to clean, here’s what we learned.
Lesson 1: There is always a trade off. Always.
Yes, the new house has lower taxes and our mortgage is lower. But the new house also has at least a hundred doors, and they’re all a bit wonky. Some have keyholes but no keys. Some don’t close all the way or latch. Some scrape the floor when you open them.
We will not discuss the lack of energy efficiency, the odd noise the furnace makes, or the ice dams forming on the roof right now. I don’t have all day to get upset about the ice dams.
Less expensive homes are less expensive for a reason. Lucky for us, we think most of this is kind of hilarious. Eric and I both grew up in old farmhouses so oddities like this don’t stress us out too badly. But if these are the things that drive you mad, then think twice.
Lesson 2: The actual process of obtaining a mortgage and buying/selling a house is soul-sucking.
Even with stable, normal jobs and excellent credit, there was a time when an email from our mortgage processor spiked my blood pressure to the stratosphere. We waded through paperwork I didn’t understand, shelled out thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, and had a home purchase completely fall through at the last moment. Heart attack city, I tell you.
AND ALSO, we ran into a problem when our property taxes were double paid due to a lack of communication by some of the professionals. A sizable amount of money ended up in cyber space for months instead of in our savings account, where it belonged. (Word to the wise– if you run into this type of problem, use Twitter to politely contact your bank! That got us assistance when nothing else did.)
I am now at least 40 years older from the experience of buying this house. I’m basically an 81-year-old woman with a great dye job.
Lesson 3: Moving is a big adjustment.
I got so caught up in the financial aspect of things that I sort of forgot about the emotional cost of moving. Except for the cat, who thinks the new house is wonderful, we’ve all had some roller coaster emotions the last two months. Our daughter moved away from some neighborhood friends she really enjoyed, we moved out of the school district so we end up driving a lot more (the kids didn’t change schools), and also many people think we’re insane.
There’s been a fair amount of anxiety, frustration, and explaining to do. I’ve woken up at night and had panic attacks over whether we did the right thing, but IT WAS TOO LATE because we were already sleeping in a house we’d already bought.
I guess this is an actual example of sleeping in the bed you made, right?
Overall, I think we made the right decision when we downsized.
The move has given me the confidence that we’re doing the best we can with our resources across a very broad spectrum.
We’re able to tithe and give generously, save for retirement, got a twenty-year mortgage, and paid off a considerable debt because of the move. Our kids are headed into very expensive years– driving, graduation, and college loom in the near future. I feel like this house gives us the financial flexibility to prepare for those expenses wisely.
We love to travel, and this house also gives us the room to do that. We traveled even when we lived in the more expensive house, but I always felt kind of weird about it. Now I know we’ve made the changes that free up the money to travel. Rome, here we come!
Finances aside, the house itself is working well for us too. It’s not the tiny house I dreamed of for years, but it’s a good compromise for everyone. The kids have enough room to spread out and have friends over, Eric still has his library, and I have a gorgeous backyard that the previous owner tended with love for forty-five years. I can’t wait to get out there this spring to see what’s growing.
Could we have saved even more money with a smaller, older, rougher house? Yes, of course. But then our sanity would have been at stake, and that would have cost waaaaay more than property taxes.
My advice is this: know your priorities.
What’s your greatest stress? Consider that question with prayer, good counsel, and lots of thinking. If you’re in a stage where you have little kids who need a lot of room to run around and you want to host all the Christmas gatherings in your home, then you probably would do well to pay more for your house to ensure you can live your priorities.
But if your finances are wobbly, or you just hate the thought of spending your money on things that don’t matter to you, then downsizing/rightsizing might be a great decision for your family.
There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in making the hard decision that brings your life into balance. Is it right for you? Only you can know! Life is too short to be burdened with debt, stress, and priorities that don’t fit what God has called you to do. It might be time to get your own sign for the yard!