finances and fires

I’ve noticed that my posts tend to consist of (longish) bullet points lately, but that’s just the way things stand these days – an accumulation of random bits of news, with something to say about each one but not quite enough actually happening, or not enough time, to go into much depth on anything. So, here goes:

  • My mom was in town for a few days recently. She’s been very skeptical about our proposed move to the Methow Valley (or, for that matter, to any sort of rural area), and continues to remain skeptical after learning a bit more about our plans during her latest visit. She questioned whether I really could be happy if I left the city behind. I replied that in the ideal world, we would like to have a small place in the city in addition to our main home in the country, to make it easier to visit Seattle for work or for fun. My mom’s response? Buy a place in the city first, then think about building or buying in the countryside. My first thought was, well, that’s much easier said than done, with virtually no condos or houses in Seattle – any size, any neighborhood – to be had for less than $200,000. However, I’m now thinking that we might just be able to swing it if we decided to build rather than buy in the Methow and were able to buy some land and building materials for cheap. And, if we rented our city place out through Airbnb or something like that when we were not around, which would be most of the time, it could really help us pay off our mortgages. All of this means that I need to talk to a bank about the feasibility of getting both a conventional mortgage and a construction loan with our limited income… yikes.
  • Finally, after at least a couple of years of spending nearly every penny we earned on daily life, as well as, more recently, on paying off credit card debt, we started saving again! Thanks, mom, for seeding our savings account with your generous gift! I know, you were probably hoping that I’d use it to buy myself some shoes or clothes or a new purse but, believe me, having it sit in our savings account is so much more satisfying right now. And, I promise I will buy myself a new purse soon anyway! God knows I need it, as even I, generally oblivious to such things, have noticed that the handles on my current one are hopelessly cracked and frayed.
  • Speaking of banks and savings and such, I decided to check out the new Financial Empowerment Center recently launched in Seattle. It’s basically a place where anyone can go for free, non-profit financial counseling and coaching. In particular, they can help with improving credit scores and building savings, which is where we can use some help. Our credit scores are good, actually in the low end of the “excellent” range, but we’d like to improve them further; and new strategies on how to save on a fairly small income are always welcome. Also, I’m hoping that they can provide us with some information on mortgage options for low-middle income home buyers and first time home buyers – I know there is stuff out there but haven’t found a comprehensive listing/comparison yet. These next few weeks will be really busy, but I’ll try to make an appointment for 4-5 weeks down the road.
  • Speaking of something other than finances, I came across the blog of a jewelry artist living in the Methow who lost her home and studio in this summer’s wildfires. Although I don’t know her at all in real life, and only know her virtually through her Etsy shop, in a way, reading about the devastation that the fires have caused for this woman and her family have really brought this past’s summer’s events home for me, making them much more personal and real. (During our trip to the Methow last month, we stayed in the upper part of the valley that was not directly affected by the fire so didn’t get to see the impact, although the forest where we camped had burned about 8 or 9 years ago and is still not fully recovered.) I cannot even imagine what it must be like, to lose everything like that – something you had worked so hard to build both literally and figuratively, all the things associated with so many memories, her sources of inspiration, her livelihood. If you can, please go support Nicole’s fundraiser to help her and her family with a new place to live and create.

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