An answer to the question: “So… how can you afford this?”

Well, it finally happened. One of my dear friends finally put two and two together (or…couldn’t figure out how two and two would go together in this situation) and asked: “If you two couldn’t afford an apartment, how can you afford buying AND fixing up a mobile home?” An excellent question!

The short answer is: we got a really freaking sweet deal!

But I can (and will!) go into more detail, because I think it’s interesting to note the financial struggles of someone like me (a full-time, tenure-track community college instructor) during times like these (can we say economic downturn?).

So, according to the limited research I’ve done (read: Google search which led to Wikipedia….DON’T tell my students!), my salary puts me in the “lower middle class”. It is interesting to note that my salary is also above the national median of $32,000 a year for individual earners, and CF’s and my incomes combined is also above the median of $46,000 for households.   So it would seem that we should be able to afford to rent a simple two-bedroom apartment.

However, annual salary isn’t everything.  It doesn’t take into account withholdings for things like medical insurance, or payments for things like student loans (from my fancy private undergraduate and graduate schools) and cars (like the one I need to make the 40 minute commute to work and the bigger one CF needs to haul his drums around).

Now, everyone knows that teachers aren’t paid enough, but I feel relatively fortunate with my position and my income.  And I in no way mean to make it sound as though I don’t think I make enough money.  I do.  However, I do think that things like housing and transportation are too expensive.

So, enough explanation.  Let’s talk numbers.  CF and I needed to be able find either an apartment near his current studio (’cause no landlord in his or her right mind would let drums on the premises) or a house in which we could build a new studio.  Which one of those two choices seems more cost effective?  If you said “the apartment!” you’re right!  You get a gold star.

So, the cheapest apartment building in the vicinity of CF’s studio asks $695 a month for a two bedroom and $565 for a one bedroom.  When CF and I checked it out, only a two bedroom was available (and honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to the two of us attempting to live in a small one bedroom…)

$695 doesn’t sound too bad.  Except that there are utilities at this building that I had never had to pay before–namely, sewer and water–which the landlord said would be about $70 a month.  Now we’re up to $765 a month, not including the other utilities–electricity/gas and the internet service that I would need to answer all of those desperate student emails.  Ack! Costs are mounting!

$765 a month is almost $300 more than I pay for my one bedroom apartment.  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “uh, yeah, but what about CF?  Isn’t he going to pitch in?”  Well, yes!  Yes, he is! But, if you add his share of the utilities and food to the extra $300, you might as well rent a second one bedroom apartment!

Let’s not forget the dreaded security deposit of one month’s rent, the fact that I would still be paying a final month’s rent at my old apartment to finish out the last 30 days, or the fact that CF and I are desperately trying to save money to go to London in May.

To sum up:  CF and I could have moved into the 2 bedroom apartment, but living there would have sucked us dry of every penny we earned with no room for savings and that’s like…er…well….TOTALLY LAME.

Now, the mobile home.  We would have to pay for the mobile home, but it would be ours–and then we’d pay a lot rental of $295 a month.  We would also pay utilities (which would include sewer and water), but all in all the rent and utilities per month is much more affordable.  AND luckily for us, buying the mobile home would only cost us a grand.  That’s right.  I just bought a mobile home for a mere $1000. It’s probably worth WAY more, but that is the amount of the other offers that came in for it, and that is the price that CF’s stepdad paid when he bought it.  So there.

Let’s compare.  Two bedroom apartment: almost $1400 upfront (security deposit plus first month’s rent), followed by monthly rent of $695 plus utilities.  Mobile Home: almost $1300 upfront (cost of mobile home plus first month’s lot rental), followed by monthly lot rental of $295 a month plus utilities.

I think we made the right decision 🙂  Especially since we still can save money (after the initial costs) to go London in May.

And I’m sure you dear, smart readers still have one more lingering doubt: “Yes, this explains the buying of the mobile home, but what about the costs of fixing it up?”  Well, CF and I got lucky again.  First, we’re selling the stuff left inside the trailer to help with the costs of supplies.  Second, CF’s biological dad LOVES new projects and is already excited to help us (plus he knows a thing or two about DIY projects).  And third, we have friends who are willing to help with the dirty work–like my wonderful, amazing colleague who is really excited to help me paint!

And, that just about sums it up!  I promise more fun (and more pictures!) and less numbers in my next post.  Love to you all!


About Cathy G Gilbert

I am veggie-loving, community college professor who lives, teaches, and writes in Central IL.
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2 Responses to An answer to the question: “So… how can you afford this?”

  1. Ah! And I failed to mention that if CF and I fix up the mobile home really nicely, when we decide to move and sell the place, we might be able to make a profit!

  2. Pingback: A Series of Failures: an Apology and Explanation | The Stigma of Lot 26

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