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We bought our house six years ago, and we did the decidedly not-FI thing of buying way outside of our means. At the time, I was pregnant with Viv, my husband had just finished his associate’s degree and was doing a “paid internship” that cost us more in gas money than it brought in, and my salary was somewhere around $45K. The house cost us $115K. We put down almost nothing. I’m sure we had to put down something. We scrambled. But it was almost nothing.
It was also decidedly FI, because we knew we would be making more money soon, we bought a modest house (3-bedroom, approximately 1300 square feet) in a LCOL area, and over time, the percentage of money that we put toward the mortgage has shrunk. I don’t know what people use as a standard measurement, but if you include the payments that we are making toward improvements (solar panels, waterproofing the basement, putting in a new bathroom), the mortgage, the utilities, and taxes, it comes to a little under 10% of gross pay. It’s very manageable.
But when we first moved in, we didn’t have furniture for several months, and we couldn’t afford even the smallest improvements. Slowly, as that has changed, we’ve worked on turning the house into a home. The outside space is really important to me. I am constantly fighting my kids over screen time, and I don’t want to be stepping on LOL Surprise Dolls every two minutes from kids playing in the cramped living room. If I can get us all outside, we are all happier, and healthier, too.
Three years ago, we bought a hammock. It goes through cycles of use and disuse, but what’s a backyard paradise without a hammock?
Two years ago, we bought a round tree swing, which was an immediate hit. It is starting to fray, the kids use it so much, although this year I bought some stronger straps to hang it from, so that should make it last a few more seasons.
Last year, I bought a porch swing, which has been my greatest investment to date in terms of happiness ROI. We’ve never converted it into a futon, not once. I don’t care. I drink my first cup of coffee outside in the pre-dawn hours while sitting and watching the birds at the bird feeder, and take my freelance work out there so the kids can play in the evenings.
This year, for Christmas, the kids got a huge trampoline, which we set up about two months ago. The kids have jumped on it nearly every day since. I went back and forth about this, because trampolines are notoriously dangerous, but eventually decided that since one out of every two families seems to have one these days, I’d rather they have experience with jumping – and with falling – so when they go to friends’ houses they don’t try to just show off without knowing how their bodies work on trampolines. Viv’s almost got a front flip figured out, which is…Viv is 5. Good lord.
And just this year, we bought three additional tree swings. I first bought two, and then they were fighting so much over them that I got a third one. I cannot believe how much the kids use them. The bus stop is literally at our house, and all the kids come early to the bus stop so they can swing on the variety of swings. I have the lowest one set so that Amelia can jump up into it, and the kids are twisting, swinging, pumping, pushing, all variety of play. I’m so happy with them. We got two of these:
And one of these (which is less popular, because it’s wobbly, which makes it really hard to sit on – it’s that way on purpose, it requires more core strength. But I’m 40 and have no core strength and I prefer the other swings. Wait, are these all for me? Maybe.):
I have always imagined that my kids would be running in and out of the house, tracking dirt everywhere, letting the dog out as I yell after them “I SAID TO SHUT THE GATE,” throwing their backpacks on the ground after school and running back outside (“THE BACKPACK HOOK IS RIGHT THERE!”). I know that some kids are happy as can be playing in piles of dirt. Mine are drawn to YouTube and squabbling, and need a little more incentive to get outside. This year, with the right equipment, we’ve enticed them out there – every single day, even when it’s rainy.
Our yard has always been my favorite part of this house, but this year, it’s become that way for the kids, too.