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When is the value worth the cost?

Our house is a shambles. We tore out our bathroom, and are in the process of redoing it. The floor was rotting out, and getting worse by the day, so fixing it was a priority. At the same time, we are adding a half-bath directly above it. With six people in our house, changing it up from 1 bathroom to 1.5 bathrooms is perhaps not a need, but is seemingly increasingly important. It makes sense to do it all at once while the walls are opened up.

And when I say “we,” I mean “the contractor.” We waited for a couple of years to do this, building up reserves so that we could pay for almost all of it out of pocket (except I made a big miscalculation on taxes, so…I was wrong). There was (surprise!) terrible plumbing behind the walls that increased the cost. All told, ripping out the bathroom to the studs, re-doing the plumbing, getting new tile and fixtures and toilets and sinks and tub, and adding a totally new bathroom to the second floor is running us about $20K. This is stressful.

We thought about trying to do it ourselves, but it seems unrealistic. My husband has been DIYing an office space in the basement. It’s been two years. He only has a few hours a week to work on it, he’s not an expert, and he’s a perfectionist. We can’t go for multiple years without a toilet.

Last week, we went to an acquaintance’s house for an Easter egg hunt, and she showed me her house. As we walked around the front room, I was in awe. It is beautiful. Her husband is a stone mason, and he does all the work himself. “I refuse to have a credit card,” she said, “so we just do what we can when we can.” It was just then that she took me into the bathroom off of their master bedroom, which was half-gutted. “We originally got an estimate for the tile that we’re going to need for this tub (there was a space for a huge bathtub), but it was $11,000, so we aren’t going to do that. It’s okay, all I need in here is a toilet and a sink.”

She and her husband have been living there for 17 years, slowly updating it, and for 17 years, her bathroom has been a construction zone.

I am jealous of her ability to be frugal. I am jealous of her ability to not use credit, ever. I am currently sick about how much more this job is costing than I thought, and wish that we would have put aside more money before we signed the contract.

I’m not jealous of the fact that we will soon, within a week or so, have two working, finished bathrooms and no rotting floors.

I wonder if I’m cut out for this journey to FI. We do a lot of things right, being intentional with our money, doing side hustles, living in a low cost of living area. But we also do a lot of things that feel wrong according to the tenets of the movement. I’m not willing to live with a half gutted bathroom for years and years.

We could get to FI sooner, but what I’m struggling with this morning is the question of sacrifices – which sacrifices are worth it? Can I consider myself working toward this goal if I throw away tens of thousands of dollars on something we could do ourselves, if we were just willing to put up with half-finished bathrooms for a couple of years? Just manage as we have, with six people (three who are shockingly quickly growing into adolescence) using one bathroom?

At any rate, I usually consider myself super frugal, and right now I’m feeling the opposite. In the end, I do think that the value we get from this is worth it. But I also wonder if I am just foolishly throwing money away when we could make do with less.

5 thoughts on “When is the value worth the cost?”

  1. Six people need more than one bathroom! Yes, it is hurting your pocketbook/ delaying your FI now, but really, I believe it is a necessity. Case in point: our family of four had the flu last year. I shall spare you the details but I can’t imagine 2 puking kids sharing the porcelain throne 😐. Enjoy your bathrooms when completed~even though they cost more than anticipated!

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  2. Feel you. If we don’t spend anything on our house, we will probably reach FI fairly quick before kids are college age. I won’t buy new anything hardly, or try not to, but I am fairly willing to pay for home improvements. If we did everything we *want* (not need), we’d delay our time to FI quite a bit. So I am myself struggling with the things I do DIY and what I pay for. One thing I am hoping for is to make summers off work with my schedule, in the next couple years so I can plan major projects during the summer. The wife and kids will have it off, I am trying to make that work. We also have to decide what’s really valuable versus just aesthetics. Would I love to pull out the brown carpet and replace with hardwood? Hell yeah. But my kids are tiny right now and I would prefer them to wreck the carpet when they’re small and for us to suck it up and be happy with what we have.

    I think sacrificing everything in pursuit of FI may not be what we actually want, but slightly delaying it with summers off and home projects may still be an excellent value trade-off and would still result in being FI before we are 45.

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    1. Small kids ruin everything! My husband is worried they’ll ruin the new bathroom but I think it’s less likely than them ruining carpet or a couch. Also, our youngest is 2.5 so we are at the tail end of the really terrible ruining years.

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