11 July 2006


One of the reasons I moved to the country was because I could reduce my operating expenses. The up front investment is significant, but the day to day operating costs are less: property taxes are half of what they are in the city, I have no power bill, no water or sewage charges, and my only utility bill is for natural gas. My fuel costs for the commute have gone up substantially, but it is a fair trade for daycare costs and downtown parking. I'm also talking to my coworkers about being able to work remotely one or two days a week, which will save significantly on fuel.

For further savings, I've decided not to install a land line for the telephone. It will cost about $1500 just to get the line run to the house - and then I'd have a bill of about $40 a month on an ongoing basis, which I don't particularly need. I've found a better cell phone plan, so my monthly phone bill is substantially less than it was: these days, the cell phone is a requirement and the land line is optional. Strange how things change with advances in technology.

Someday I'll have a garden, which will help bring the grocery bill down, and I do get as many eggs as I can eat (and more!) from the chickens. I calculated the cost to be about 5 cents an egg (excluding infrastructure costs). Eventually we may be able to make a little money from the sheep, although probably not much more than what will cover feed and vet bills. Ah, the dreams of being able to supplement my income with old fashioned skills ... it may still happen, but I'm not banking on it.

Speaking of banks: the tricky part to all of this, of course, is the up front investment. While I did manage to get approved for an owner-build mortgage (through the nice folks at ATB Financial, who are the only ones willing to finance such a venture), it still takes a lot of money to get things going. You don't get your mortgage funds until after you complete the work and an inspector agrees that it is done. Well, that's not entirely accurate: you do get startup funds, but not enough to pay for everything as you go.

The good news is that you don't have to pay your regular mortgage payment until your house is done or until one year has passed, whichever comes first. That means that a portion of your paycheque can be used to buy deck screws and light fixtures and tools instead of paying a mortgage, which helps. Still, the cash to pay for the solar panels and the fireplace and the kitchen cabinets all has to come from somewhere, and my paycheques are not quite that generous. To accomplish the necessary financial sleight of hand, I have a number of creative financing options in place ... all of which are racking up interest at startling rates, unfortunately. I took advantage of all the offers I could find: my kitchen cupboards were bought on a no-payments-for-a-year promotion at Ikea, and I've put other major purchases on one credit card then switched the balance to another card that offered a low interest for six months on transferred balances.

Unfortunately, all these tricks are still not enough to keep things going indefinitely, my one year is up, and the house is not finished. The bank has another 30K or thereabouts to give me ... but the ceiling is still just vapor barrier and fibreglass, the flooring has just started to be installed, and there's no trim installed yet. No mortgage payments for a year is a nice thing, but 30K would pay off a lot of high interest debts!

The other day I had a call from the bank saying that it was time to start paying the mortgage, as my one year was up. "But," I said, "the house isn't done yet and you still have money to give me!" They told me they'd send out an inspector and the last draw could be forwarded to my lawyer who would hold onto it until things are really and truly finished. This had me a bit worried: now I'd have a mortgage payment in addition to all the debt servicing I'm doing to keep the various credit cards and such under control. I started crunching numbers and looking for even more creative financing options.

Today when I came home, there was a pink note stuck in my door ... the bank inspector had been here and approved the final draw with only an 8K holdback! This means that I will have enough cash available to pay off the higher interest loans just as they come due. Whew! That was close.

To add the icing to the cake, a truck came today and picked up the roofing that we were not able to use (see the posts from last January if you missed that part of the adventure). Once it is returned to AllPro, I will get a credit for those materials. More money, more bills paid off, more good news!


For some reason I am reminded of something I saw in an email awhile back: Life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving there safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a glass of wine in one hand and chocolate in the other, all worn out and hollering "wooohoo what a ride!"

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