house

I am just about to own my own home and it has made me realize a few things.

As a boy I did all sorts of things to earn money. I collected soda cans along the side of the road. I did odd chores. I mowed lawns. When I did earn money, I was something of a saver and a spender. I liked the idea of having a bin full of coins. It made me feel good. I would throw all the coins and dollars into that bin and every so often take it out and count up all the money, feeling a bit like Scrooge in Duck Tales or a bit like a Monopoly Boss, slowly building an empire. But inevitably, my saving mentality would dissipate and I would spend those hoarded coins and dollars on a pack of baseball cards or a new video game. Then I would have to start all over saving up coins.

One of my favorite ways to earn money was cutting coupons. On Sunday I went not for the comic strips, but for the coupon pages. I would cut out every single coupon that I even remotely thought my mother would use. She graciously agreed to give me all the money those coupons would save her. More often than not, those coupons were not for things we normally bought as a family, but I would persuade her to use them anyway. I could always convince her that we might like Healthy Choice meals or Betty Crocker stuffing or Hamburger Helper. Or perhaps she knew all along that those foods would pile up in our cupboards, uneaten for months.

The best thing about coupons was that our local grocery store doubled them. That meant those one dollar coupons were saving us two dollars, or earning me two dollars as I looked at it. On a good grocery day I would make over twenty dollars, a veritable fortune for a ten year old boy. Inevitably it made me want to go grocery shopping every day.

But we didn't go grocery shopping every day and the grass only grew so quickly and the cans took months to find their way back to the side of the road. I quickly learned the value of money, because it was so hard to earn and took so long to accumulate.

That is why taking out loans really bothers me. They take seemingly forever to pay off and by the time I do, I end up paying far more than I originally thought. If I buy a car for say $15,000 with an interest rate of 5% over five years, then I am actually paying $17,000 for that car. When I buy a house for $100,000 dollars, over a thirty year mortgage at today's interest rates I will actually pay $200,000 for that house.

Since I have been house shopping these past ten months I have not looked at a single house that was selling for $100,000 dollars and thought it was worth $200,000. Yet, that is what I would really be paying for that house, before I even made any repairs or updates. This make me think twice about taking out a loan. I know that they are often the only way of owning those big ticket items, but they seem to really stick it to you.

I can't help but think of the cost of that house in terms of soda cans along the side of the road. That's four million soda cans. That's a lot of cans. Or maybe it is time to think of new ways to pay for that house.

© Seth Crossman