Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Feeling the squeeze, but not so much

As we prepare for Benny to become the stay at home parent, we're faced with the loss of income that many families face when they make this decision. However, its a reality we've planned for for several years, so we've managed to stash away quite a bit in savings in preparation. But we know this wouldn't be enough to keep us afloat in the long term, since we plan for Benny to be home for several years. So, we began exploring the options for other streams of income and getting creative.

First, we took a page from friends books and rented out our upstairs guest room. We knew that this would work for us, since we'd rented to family before and we'd hosted two divinity student interns. We're comfortable living with others and sharing common space. This might not be a solution for everyone, but it was an obvious choice for us. It also forced us to clear out some junk from that closet and do some regular maintenance (caulking, repainting trim, etc.) that needed to be done to that room. Our tenant will move in this coming week, so we're looking forward to getting to know him, and he seems like he'll be a good fit for our family. Plus, the extra income will help us pay off a small home equity line we have for finishing out the basement.

What, you say? Finishing out the basement...with a 7 month old?! Yes, we're crazy, but follow me here. We have known since we built this house in 2008 that we planned to finish out the basement one day. Half of that space is a walk out, one bedroom apartment. The other half is my art/craft room and storage for tools, garden supplies, and general garage stuff. We're hoping to have the basement finished by the end of this month in order to rent it out in September. The apartment is really nice with a full kitchen, four piece bath, and dedicated patio space with outdoor furniture provided. There's lots of storage, pretty wood laminate floors, plus great light in the afternoons and evenings. So, we're hoping to get top dollar for the apartment rent, although our neighborhood's road probably hinders that a bit with our winter weather. (Know anyone looking for a rental in the area? Our potential tenant for this space fell through...) With the two rentals, we're figuring we can have the home equity line paid off within two years, maximum.

Now, my art and craft room. It's a beauty... hardwood floors (mostly courtesy of my father-in-law's leftover wood and his spending a week's vacation here helping to install it), dusty lavender walls, and nice lighting, although little natural light since its in the most subterranean portion of the basement. Here's where I plan to begin teaching some art lessons, hopefully group lessons, to kids once or twice a week. I have a beautiful antique pedestal table I inherited that will be the perfect place for students to gather and work on their projects. I'm hoping to have enough students that I can offer scholarships to some kids who would enjoy lessons, but might not have the means for such. I'll probably just teach classes in the summer, spring, and fall, since winter weather would probably force me to cancel classes more than I'd like. While this is a smaller stream of potential income, it should cover our internet bill each month, if not a little more.

Benny's planning to sell several items we have on eBay and Craigslist. Some of these are things we tried to sell on consignment that just didn't sell, others are electronics and gaming things that he has that we knew were just too "niche" to try to sell on consignment. He's already sold some things, enough to cover our first bulk food purchase of spices and nuts from San Fransisco Herb Company, which I'm super excited about. Money from these sales will go toward bulk food purchases, savings, and Raygan's college fund.

There may also be days where Benny keeps another child for cash or bartering for goods or services. This has worked out well for us in the past; its how we got our last printer and how we get some things done around the house that we don't have the time or talent to do ourselves.

And of course, there's my Mary Kay business. It takes me away from my family more than I'd like, but when it goes well, it's a nice supplemental income. So, if you know anyone in need of products, send them my way, please!

Then we're saving where we can: combining errands, carpooling to work, not eating out, frugal meals, buying food in bulk, cloth diapering, watching our energy usage by not running the AC, using natural light when possible, etc., taking shorter showers, not renewing magazine subscriptions or online subscriptions, using credit card points to make purchases instead of cash, etc. Perhaps the biggest challenge I've posed for myself is to go as long as possible without spending money during the week (no extra grocery store trips, carpool to the max to keep from buying gas, no online or in store shopping, etc.).

So, we're figuring that although we might be feeling the squeeze a bit with this transition, we've planned well. These multiple streams of income will be sustainable for several years and will allow us to continue putting money into our savings. Hopefully it will only mean a few hundred dollars loss in income, and its totally worth it to us to know that one of us will be home with Raygan and providing him all the love and attention we can. And, it means that we'll really get to spend more time together when those snow days roll around and next summer begins.

Here's to living green and saving green at home!

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