Author Topic: Please help us figure out our next move  (Read 3901 times)

Mint Chip

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Please help us figure out our next move
« on: September 02, 2014, 07:15:19 AM »
We've made great progress this past year thanks in large part to the great folks and advice here at MMM - we live on a budget (!), sold off gas guzzlers and lots of random crap, paid off all of our cc debt ($18k), and set DH up with a steady, well paying job that includes health insurance (!) and a pension (!). It is a job that he enjoys doing, is good at, and is willing to stick out for 20 years in order to get the pension (assuming, of course, that it is still there for him at that time). The idea of this pension is huge because we have zero retirement savings right now. (It might be time for us to also consider the 403(b) that is available to him, or our own Roth IRA.)

Here's the problem: The job is in "the city" and the house that we own and live in is in"the country" where he used to work, and the commute, without traffic, is an hour each way. I can't convince him to move to "the city".  We have 3 kids under 8, and he likes that we are up here. I would gladly move and consider it an adventure (we both lived and worked in "the city" before the kids came along), but he is dead-set against it.

If moving to "the city" is off the table, in an effort to simplify at least part of our life and reduce the time that the kids and I spend in the car, I would really like to relocate to an area in "the country" that is more walkable and less rural, and is closer to the kids' activities. I'd also love to get a smaller, more energy efficient home. We live in a lovely but drafty old house that costs a small fortune to heat during our long winters. It is around 1600 square feet, 3 br, 1 ba. Our mortgage each month (30 years fixed a 3.85) is 1036, including property taxes. We paid $165k and owe approx $112k. Realistically, if we were to put it on the market today, we could get around $185k for it. Dad's annual salary is $70k, and should go up every year. We are both in our early 40s.

Other than living in our current house, we don't do anything in our town (except go to the library) and are always in the car - to go food shopping, the library, playground, classes and activities (we homeschool), and I'd love to situate ourselves in a location where at least the kids and I have the option to walk or bike to our usual destinations, and where our activities/destinations are within a 10-minute car ride at most. DH's commute from said walkable town would be about the same.

Our remaining debts are student loans: $9000 @ 6.8 (fixed) and 57000 @ 3.5 (fixed). We have $1000 cash for emergencies. Our plan is to get rid of the 9k loan, and we're not sure yet what our plan is regarding the $57k (i.e., whether we will pay it off quickly, or pay it off more slowly in order to invest/save some).

Unfortunately because of our pre-MMM stupidity, ER isn't a realistic option for us, but our goals/priorities include keeping things simple, living a healthy, active lifestyle, minimizing stress, building adequate savings and investments, living below our means, reducing the time that we spend in the car, and maintaining a safe, loving environment for our kids. (I stay at home with them, and that is also our priority.)

So, wise MMM folk, what should our next "move" be, if anything? What would you do if you were in our situation? (Brutal honesty is greatly appreciated.) Stay put and pay down the debt? Sell the house and move to said walkable town and find my 2 br 1 ba "dream house"? Beg DH to suck it up and move to "the city"?

Looking forward to your thoughts. Thanks in advance for your help.

skunkfunk

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2014, 07:33:08 AM »
The big general questions you are asking are hard for anyone else to answer. Even given all that background I don't know what's right for you.

Were I you, I'd probably start by finding a part-time job to help pay down those debts (possibly meaning sending the kids to public school. My wife is a school teacher so I'm a bit biased towards public school.) Once  you've got everything paid off you can build some retirement money faster than you would think by keeping your expenses low and not inflating  your lifestyle. Would you consider yourself a candidate for a full case study? You may get more useful responses that way.

Mint Chip

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2014, 07:54:56 AM »
Thank you for your reply.

Hmm. Good point. Not sure if this is case-study worthy or not.

I guess I'm asking if moving to said walkable town where there are many free activities for the kids, and limiting our life and choices to what's available there locally would be mustachian or not, given that DH refuses to do the true mustachian thing and move closer to work.

Or, if it would be more mustachian to stay put, hammer out the debt, and make it a priority to be more efficient with or just plain limit car trips?

Regarding sending the kids to school, that is not on the table right now, but thank you for raising a very good point. This choice that we have made limits us right now, but we are going to deal with the financial consequences for the time being. We have already made some great progress just by following a budget. DH is also a teacher and can bring in some extra cash during the summers, in addition to his $70k salary.

Oh, and to give you an idea of how we roll: we have no tv/cable, no cell phones, no dishwasher, no microwave, our dryer died a few months ago and we aren't replacing it, no subscriptions to anything, don't go on vacation, and we don't eat out or do takeout, our paid-for compact cars (yes, they fit 3 across!) are 6 and 9 years old.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2014, 08:20:24 AM by Mint Chip »

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2014, 07:57:43 AM »
I am not sure how old you are, but early retirement could definitely still be an option.  I did not think that it would be an option for us, as we have a similar situation but now it seems to be.  We also live in a rural area about 30 miles from a major town.  We toiled with the idea of moving closer, but in the end it didn't align with our goals.  We are close to a small town and I have been very surprised to find out the number of activities available very close to our home.  Some of the nearby rural activity options include 4H (highly recommended), local sports and horse music/lessons around our home.  Since we decided not to move we had to build a life in our community.  Moving may be a great option for you in your case if the other area really is much more walk-able.

Since your husband has an awful commute maybe he has an option for a carpool/vanpool.  My work (government work) has a matching service for both and that would be a huge money savor and free up time for some pleasure reading. 

Do you have any land at your house?  If so, you could save some money on groceries and make some extra income from homesteading.

If you get a chance, post a case study.  There are some great people on here to help you out with it.

Mint Chip

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2014, 08:11:43 AM »
Thank you, mrsggrowsvegs. We are in our early 40s. Our walkable town is a 20 -25 minute drive from here. Unfortunately, our own town offers very few family/kids/community activities. We find ourselves traveling to said walkable town nearly every day.

We do have the space to grow some food and I will definitely look into that.

I will also consider posting a case study, if that will be more helpful.

Thank you!

theadvicist

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2014, 08:37:11 AM »
If you're travelling to the walkable town almost daily, yes I would move there. It's clearly what you want, you can afford it, it will actually free up money, what are you waiting for? I sense your reluctance might be because the only 'true' MMM thing would be to move close to your husband's job. But if you're basically 'commuting' daily, you might as well move near your 'job' of educating those kids, which you effectively do in the walkable town.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2014, 09:00:41 AM »
You don't say whether the home you would replace yours with would cost more or less.  If your costs remain the same (whether you move or not), you need to increase your income to build and emergency fund ($1,000, really! with kids!) and hammer out those loans.  Do not increase your costs.

Look at some properties and if it makes sense for the long run, I would go for it.

Mint Chip

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2014, 09:12:50 AM »
Thanks,  the advicist and frugaliknowit.  That's a great way to look at it, and I guess that was what my gut was telling me, and my reason for asking.

We will have to see if we can keep our costs the same, and I think that it would be very possible. In selling the house, though, we will incur realtor fees/closing costs, and moving costs.  I'll have to run the numbers and see.

And thanks for the comment about the emergency fund. You really think we should bulk it up before paying off the debt?

4alpacas

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2014, 09:34:51 AM »
And thanks for the comment about the emergency fund. You really think we should bulk it up before paying off the debt?

I vote yes for building up an EF.  You're in a single earner household with kids.  You don't even have retirement accounts to tap (not that I would recommend it). 

How much would it cost to move to the walkable town?  What are your car expenses?  Could you get rid of a car (thus insurance and gas) if you moved to the walkable town?  Even if the houses are more expensive, you might come out ahead due to the frequency of your travel. 

Mint Chip

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2014, 09:56:40 AM »
Thanks, 4alpacas for the reply.

Will move the ef up to the next priority.

I would LOVE to get rid of a car. It would all depend on where we wound up, but that is the goal.

Moving costs would likely be minimal and could probably be accomplished by borrowing a friend's truck for a weekend. Because we'd be looking to downsize, we'd have to get rid of/sell a lot of stuff.

My share of gas each month is $200 (the total is around $410), car insurance is around $50 per month, and maintenance is probably, realistically, around $50 per month. My share of the gas costs would significantly decrease if we moved, and DH's would remain about the same.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2014, 10:05:31 AM by Mint Chip »

skunkfunk

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2014, 10:13:39 AM »
Wow that's too much gas. If you are really as frugal as you say earlier up and your only expenses are food, housing, and transportation, you should be able to eventually ER if you can get those costs low.

Regarding emergency fund, some people around here like to use a HELOC - they just open one and let it sit in case they need it. I don't, but sounds like it might be a good option for you, either pre- or post- move.

Mint Chip

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Re: Please help us figure out our next move
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2014, 10:30:51 AM »
Thanks for the encouragement and advice, skunkfunk. We have learned so much here and have really changed our lives,. Some of the things - no cable/tv/cell/phone /dishwasher, etc - were lifestyle choices we made long ago, but unfortunately they were neutralized by our bad decisions, lack of planning, and out of control spending. It was humbling to find the cause of our problems in the mirror, but it was there - and here at MMM - that we found so many solutions, so it's all good.

We are spending way too much on gas and way too much time on our butts in the car. I'm always on the lookout for ways to cut back and simplify. 

Thanks also for the heloc suggestion. I will keep it in mind.