Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Paul and I are facing a monumental decision for us; whether to spend money. We have been married 23 years, as of today actually. Today is our anniversary. In the 24 years since we bought our house, we have always watched our spending.

There have been years when our income was up and years when it was down. Because he is a commissioned salesman we can't always count on Paul's income being the same from one quarter to the next. And because I am a realtor, also a commissioned income, we can have major fluctuations in our annual income and we have. If you have a good year you can't change your lifestyle to match because next year could be very different.

We drive nice cars but not luxury cars, and we usually keep them for several years. We have traveled. I love to travel, I would give up a lot of things to travel, and I have a rule: Every year I have to see somewhere new. It doesn't have to be exotic, just somewhere I have never been before. There have been some very nice vacations over the last few years, most out of the U.S. Although that may be coming to an end soon. It's gotten just too complicated and uncomfortable to fly internationally, and we talk about this next trip to Europe being our last out of the country. We'll see about that.

We still live in the same house that we bought 24 years ago. We don't buy expensive clothes or furniture. We eat out but seldom anywhere pricey. We have always been savers. We are not rich by anyone's definition but we don't worry about paying bills either. I think we are satisfied with the decisions we have made over the years.

Recently we have noticed that many of our friends and acquaintances are buying second, and in some cases third, homes. I often wonder "do that make that much more money than we do?" Although this sounds nice, Paul and I have always said..."that's not for us." The responsibility of maintaining a second home as well as the expense has just never tempted us. Until now.

Last fall while hunting Paul stayed at a relative's house in New Hampshire. It's about a three hour drive from us. Paul came home raving about the property saying how nice the house is and how gorgeous the view from the property is. He said it was a modest house, almost new, on a few acres of land, set back from the road surrounded by woods with frontage on a trout stream. Sounds nice I thought, how nice for them.

Two weeks ago I came home and Paul had a funny look on his face; funny happy, not stressed like he usually does. "You look like the cat that ate the canary," I said. He told me to sit, and said, "Diane is selling the house in New Hampshire!" Oh boy, I thought, here we go.

My husband, the man who hates to spend money more than just about anyone I know, thinks we should buy this property. And I'm not saying we shouldn't, but really, should we? It would require a small mortgage, taxes, insurance, you know the list. We all know the list. My question is not whether we can afford it, we can with a few adjustments, but will it be another burden? Will we say..."we haven't been to New Hampshire in three weeks, we need to go." Will it become an obligation rather than enjoyment.

It could be a place that the kids and grandkids would use. That would be nice. Maybe we could rent it to skier friends. That would help with the expenses. But are these good reasons to make this commitment? I just don't know. And it's keeping both of us awake at night thinking about it.

Then I think, we're not getting any younger. We all hear the stories, you shouldn't put things off that you want to do. You may never have the opportunity again....blah, blah, blah. But is it really blah, blah, blah? My father died suddenly at 68. Paul's mother did, too, at 72. You never know what's around the bend. See what I mean? I can't decide.

The plan is to go stay there for a weekend soon so I can see it. I've seen pictures, the location and view are really beautiful. Then we will have to make that decision: To spend or not to spend.

Do you own vacation property? Has it been a good experience or not? I could use some advice.


Laoch of Chicago said...

I used to own a place in the Poconos which I rented out for much of the year. Being an absentee landlord is quite awful really.

Michele said...

We owned some vacation property when the kids were little and we loved it. I was a SAHM so I would take the kids for the whole summer. Then when they got older we sold the property and used some of the money to buy a travel trailer. Which we loved even more. Why? Because we don't like to go to the same place all the time. We like to see an entire region. We would take it out every other weekend to somewhere new within 3 hours of the house and further away for longer vacations. It was great and we plan to buy another one soon. That said I know lots of people who love their vacation homes.

Badass Geek said...

I can see both sides of the issue here, and I understand your concern about it being an obligation. With that said, I think you should go for it. Because New Hampshire is right next to Maine, where I live.


croneandbearit said...

How interesting to read this now as I'm going through a stage of wondering if we should buy a "vacation" place? I don't want to spend the money on something we won't use all the time - but the problem with renting it out (as you know) is to get the tax deduction you can only use the property a certain percentage of the year - well pooh on that - I want a getaway when I want it. Our friends are buying second homes - we still have a mortg on the home in which we currently reside and being retired I don't know if I want that added expense. Sigh. It's so hard to know what to do. I still am bugging Devoted Spouse to work on updating this house and get it on the market in the next few years so we can downsize and maybe move just a little further south. He's so stubborn. But I'm getting off track here. I say if you like this property you should buy it - you are right - life is too short to not enjoy it and you have family who could also enjoy it. At least being a realtor, you'll know how to do the best negotiating. Hugs and blessings!

~Kristen~ said...

I fully believe in living for the moment, because, as you mentioned, you never know what is right around the bend. And I hate to live with the regret of "I wish we had just done this when..." That said, a second home is MAJOR investment, not just financially. It is an investment of time, of your energy, resources, etc. I know this sounds very simple, but what I tend to do when faced with big decisions is to list the pros and cons. Sounds cliche, I know, but seeing it on paper has helped to give me clarity and to see things I may not have otherwise thought of.

Can I just say, though, I have always dreamed of having a vacation home in NH! We go up to the White Mts constantly, whether for the day, a weekend, or longer. We just love it there!!!

Beth P. said...

What a difficult decision! I live in NH now and think if I had the resources I'd get myself a mountain home as well, though. It would be such an amazing opportunity to me, but maybe not for someone else. I think renting it out for ski season is a fantastic idea.

Make a list of pros and cons! That will help. Good luck making your decision!

Pam said...

It is an exciting (and scary) prospect. As you well know, the time couldn't be better to buy a property. Good luck with your decision.

Just Breathe said...

That is definately a big decision.
No we do not own vacation property.
We always felt it would be too much work when there is also so much work around our home as it is.
We do however go to Mammoth Lakes each summer and stay in the same cabin, same week each year. If you go and love the area and the house you could always try it for a few years. I am sure it's a good time to buy. You can always sell it if it doesn't work.

Turquoise Diaries said...

We own a beach house and I definitely love it. Of course it brings extra expenses but so far we are able to spent the summer months there and planning to move there permanently in the future. Our love of the place and time to use it were the biggest decision makers for us. Good luck with yours..

Jenny said...

This sounds lovely. It would surely be tempting.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

Loved your BON today - Jenny Matlock. Ah, the photos of her grandkids and the funny stories. She's very clever. I'm enjoying her blog very much. Thanks for the hook-up. You guys are doing a great job with WOW!

Slamdunk said...

Best wishes with the difficult decision.

We considered owning some kind of vacation property, but it just was not a good investment for us--we do better with renting and letting someone else deal with the hassles.


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