Money (It's a Gas)

Back in 2008 when we moved into this house, we secured a line of credit to use for renovating. It was a deal we made with ourselves—we would spend less money on a house that wasn't "done", and then use secure credit to fund renovations.

And that's exactly what we did. Soon after we moved in, we took down some walls and totally redid the kitchen. And then we gradually paid the loan down; not all the way, but a lot of the way.

Then last year we redid the bathroom and added a powder room in the basement, and now we're in debt again, deep enough that I'm pretty uncomfortable. I'm not a futurist or an economist, but I don't think now is a good time to be deep in debt, even secured debt; jobs are scarce, housing prices are in a bubble, and the economy is in flux. I would rather be in the black.

So we put together an aggressive plan to pay off debt. It took us four months to get into debt; it's going to take us four years to get out of it, assuming we keep to our plan. And as I said, it's aggressive, quite probably unrealistically so; no vacations, no household maintenance, repairs or new furniture; no clothing; no gifts (except the girls' birthdays and Christmas); no veterinary care for Thomas the cat. When we spend on any of those things, it will either be from the $70/week not-otherwise-specified fund, or it will slow down our debt repayment.

Inevitably, mere days after making this plan, the stove and the washer broke and Thomas had to go to the vet.

But we have cast off our North Toronto helplessness; instead of calling a repairman for the appliances we consulted various websites, and there are shiny and complicated parts being shipped here as I type. When they get here we will get our hands greasy, or sticky, or whatever it is, and install them ourselves.

(I know, the thought of amateurs messing around with water and electricity or natural gas is alarming, but I'm confident that helpful YouTube videos will ensure our safety. Unfortunately there is no YouTube video for how to do expensive bloodwork on a domestic cat, so the professionals still have the upper hand in that one. For now.)

As for money in; well, Blake is making as much as is feasible at the moment (with occasional large and surprising bonuses). Now it's up to me to bring in some bacon of my own—or at least tofu. I took a baby step towards that goal this week by getting an IRS EIN, a magical number which allows me to charge Americans money. (Or more specifically, to charge them money and not have them withhold 30% of it.) This is exciting because so far almost all my clients have been American.

The other thing I'm doing is trying to fit more work hours into my week. I had been using my "work" time (i.e., 9:00 am to 3:00 pm) to run errands and do chores, but I've moved a few errands to the weekend and after school. I really like my work-life balance as it is now, but the fact is when you're freelance, only about half your hours are billable. I need to make the number of hours as big as possible, without making myself or the family miserable.

Sometimes I think it would have been better to have bought a house which was all renovated and shiny, and just suffered (in our shiny, renovated house) with a bigger mortgage. But we didn't, and now we have this shabby little house with no family room, and a huge debt. It is what it is, and at least we're fairly young and have a chance of pulling ourselves out of this mess before it's time to retire!