Stepping into “Grown Up” Finances

Stepping into “Grown Up” Finances

In an attempt to shed some light on our personal story, I wanted to post these brief summaries of my past (both individually and together with my wife) as it pertains to finances. This is the second post in the series.

My wife and I married in 2010 and bought a house in the same year – we managed to cover the down payment and closing costs mostly from a small loan from my parents and utilizing the First-Time Homebuyer Credit ($8K yeah!) before it expired.

We immediately paid my folks back and settled into our new home. We bought the house from a friend and used the same agent (it worked out OK for us but I would recommend against it 99% of the time) and got it for a decent price given the size of the house – $95K for a 2200 sq ft. It was a 4 (but really 6) BR  / 2 BA enormous house pretty close to my family and our jobs.

Our living arrangements taken care of, we then settled into a pretty normal consumer lifestyle. We did started ticking off some of the boxes of “grown up” things – 401ks, life insurance, college savings for our kids, etc. We kept working towards an emergency fund goal, but we never seemed to reach it – something always came up with the roof leaking, trees fell on the house, etc.

More importantly we didn’t do a very good job of proactively reducing our spending. We would switch TV providers when trial periods ended and charges went up but that’s about it. The heat was set to 73, the AC set to 70 with no regard to how much energy we were using in our big drafty house.

One summer, we left the garden hose on at the spigot, with it turned off at the nozzle of the hose. At some point while we were on vacation – the nozzle broke and water leaked into our back patio drain for a week while we were away – hello $2,000 in water and sewage bills! We financed two more cars – a used van (which we still have) and a new (sigh) Mazda5 – more on those later.

We had two more children and despite some tough times, we enjoyed our life as much as one can and kept going along, contributing to 401ks enough to get a match, contributing (way too heavily at times) to 529s for our sons’ college educations, but never really thinking about retirement or doing anything differently. We both worked 9-5 jobs so our kids were in daycare until kindergarten and then in after school care (since school ended at 3 and 5:30 was maybe the earliest either of us could be home).

I managed to negotiate raises pretty steadily every other year and was doing pretty well for someone in the tech industry – I even became a “manager”.

With this accumulating income we set our sights on a much higher goal. We figured that once our eldest son was old enough to stay home by himself (11 or 10 we said at the time) and our second eldest was out of daycare, we could afford the monthly payment for the house that we want – in the $350,000 – $400,000 range.


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