Learning how to save, twelve (point seven five) years later

You’d think I’d have found time to write this while “snowbound in Tahoe”, but my priorities then were jigsaw puzzling, snowshoeing, and cooking good food from scratch, full stop. In truth, Stephanie did most of the jigsaw puzzle, because I had begun puzzling over something else: where to live once she had chosen Fresno State for grad school.

We’d already surveyed several apartment complexes, so we had a good sense of the quality and price points available. But still I found myself asking the question, what if we bought a place? How would 3 years of rent compare to the costs unique to buying a house (i.e. real estate agent commission, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, closing costs, etc.)?

My back-of-the-envelope and admittedly flawed analysis (“flawed” because I assumed both a flat stock market and a flat housing market; also I didn’t foresee the extent of the renovations we’d take on, nor can I predict the impact they’ll have on a future sale) suggested that we’d throw away more money renting over three years than buying, even without any price appreciation. So I started looking at listings, got in contact with an agent, and we found ourselves in contract on a house while still in Tahoe.

The house we bought in Fresno
Our house in Fresno

From a financial standpoint, I’m viewing all of 2019 as a wash, income-wise—I didn’t want to pressure myself into finding a job while also renovating the house. But eventually the renovations are going to reach an end, and I’m going to get pretty bored without anything for my mind to chew on. (It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this now.) So I’ve already started to dip my toes into the job market. Thus it’s possible, even though I’m posting this in September, that I might have yet more to say about this year come early next. In the event that I don’t start a job before the end of the year, the only “saving” I’ll do will be to transfer funds from my brokerage account to our IRAs and HSA.

I realize I haven’t said much about last year. That’s partly because, though it was a weird year work-wise, from a savings perspective, it was no different than the years that proceeded it. I put money into our Roth IRAs, my 401(k), and my brokerage account. In short, 2018 was a year of massive saving, so that we could afford this year of massive transition.

Update: Learning how to save, fifteen years later

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