Sunday, August 16, 2015

Perspective is a Great Thing

The reality hit us recently that we are stuck. Hubby has 3 years left in the military, and if he doesn't make the next rank, that's the end of his military career. With 3 years left in his current rank, he lacks what they call "retainability" which means we probably won't get orders out of the desert before his career is through.

See. Stuck.

I went into panic mode. We are used to moving every 3-5 years. Hubby has been here 5 years now, the kids and I have been here for 3 years- that Moving Itch had set in.

And remember how we had orders to Japan last year, and then they were cancelled? Every single person we talked to said, "Oh, just wait. Whenever they cancel orders like that, you always get another set of orders in the next cycle. You're fine."

We waited. And waited. Like 5 cycles have passed now, and no orders. They double screwed us.

So, we're stuck. When that realization hit, I did what any crazed person who feels backed into a corner does-

I started house hunting for a place off base. If the military won't give us orders, then at least we can take it upon ourselves to change our environment to make the next 3 years exciting again.

So let's talk numbers. I'm going to throw everything out there, and before you non-military people
think I'm disclosing some top secret info about military life, everything I share today is completely googleable. Pay charts, housing allowances, housing prices, everything. I'm just laying it all out here so you can fully understand my frustration.

Right now we live on base. Housing is subsidized, meaning some housing company owns it and runs it, and contracts out with the housing office. So, we get a housing allowance each month, and it is automatically paid to the housing people- we never see that money.

Pause for a second- when military subsidizes housing like this, non-military people want to say our housing is "free," which, in reality, it's not. We pay rent every month like everyone else, it just gets automatically taken out of our check.

Resume. Our entire housing allotment is paid to the housing people each month, and our entire housing allotment pays for the house, electric, water and trash. What sucks (when you really think about it), is we pay our full housing allotment for this house (which is roughly $1270 a month right now), but the people in the other half of our duplex (exact same house, same number of bedrooms, same floorplan, same square footage) is a few ranks below Hubby, so they pay their full allotment (in the $1100s somewhere) for the exact same house we're paying $1270-something for.

Yeah, the housing people make out like bandits, right?

So, this angered me. I decided we needed to live off base, actually get paid that $1270-something each month, find a house UNDER our budget to where we could pay rent, electric, water and trash and have money left over to save (which you can do when you live OFF base).

The kids and I made a list of must-haves in a home- things we currently already have in this base house, that we'd need in a new house under budget, in order to move. 3 bedrooms. 2 baths. Either a 2 car garage or some type of room for Hubby's workout equipment. An extra room for my office and the kids' homeschooling room.

We needed all of that in a house that, according to my estimation, would need to be about $900 a month to be able to pay the extra bills and still pocket some of the housing allotment each month.

Easy enough, right?

Yeah, I live in my own little world, and reality sucks.

5 days of online house hunting, 3 days of driving all over Tucson looking at houses, and I have now realized that our house, and what we pay for it, is amazing.

Perspective; It's a great thing.

We started out with the $900/month houses in Tucson. They were either in the ghetto, or so far from the base that our gas budget would need to be doubled, thus making it pretty ridiculous to move. The purpose was for us to SAVE money, not spend it out of pocket.

We moved to the $1000/month properties. They either lacked the space we needed, or again- were so far from base that we'd have to increase our gas budget.

Moving onto the $1100/month properties, there were a ton, and they were nice. We'd definitely be upgrading from our current situation. But I called the electric and gas companies to get estimates from the past year for each property, and we'd be paying at least $300 a month in utilities- there goes our budget of $1270-ish.

So we came home, completely defeated.

I talked to a friend of mine about everything, and explained to her my frustration. "Well sure, honey, think about it. Property companies around here know what the housing rate is and what they can charge for a house. They just price the houses around what the housing allotment is, and they'll get it from someone, regardless of what the house might actually be worth." 

More perspective. Well shit, right?

So I sat and thought for a while on what type of compromise I could reach to scratch this Moving Itch that hit the kids and I, without actually moving. Thanks to my new friend Perspective, I started re-looking at our house- 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, extra room as an office/homeschool room- everything on our list. Safe neighborhood, and though our neighbors suck, we've been used to them for 3 years now- we don't bother them, they don't bother us. The Ginger can play the drums during the day, and no one can say anything. And our gas expenses are next to nothing. All within our budget- a budget we've had for 3 years now. No surprise expenses, no budget reforms.

Well damn.

Once all of this hit me, I started to appreciate my home a little more. I took a look at the current furniture arrangement, and realized I could switch around a few things to optimize the spaces more- and let's face it- rearranging furniture makes things new and exciting again. So the kids and I spent yesterday cleaning and making new living spaces, streamlining the office/homeschool room, and organizing our existing home. I've talked with Hubby about landscaping our back yard so we have an additional outdoor living space with the "colder" months approaching (you know, when it goes from 110 degrees each day to like the 80s in the winter).

I'm pretty damn happy right now.

I don't have the headache of moving, of cleaning out our savings for deposit, first month's rent and pet fees, of worrying if our budget can handle the new house, of wondering if the neighborhood is safe.

Perspective is seriously a great thing. I thought what we had was crap, until I saw the alternatives.

Hell, one house in our budget had the high school football field in the back yard. The Girl just stood there and watched high school boys at football practice while the rest of us looked at the house. Oh hell no, right? Right!

I saved us an assload of money and frustration, just by educating myself and switching my perspective, and that's pretty amazing!

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  1. Yes! The whole living on post vs off post thing is hard. It is great that you did take the time to look into living off post because now you know what it would have been like. My husband got out last year for retainability and when he did we were using all of our BAH for our morgage & electric bill and part of the water bill. So we would have saved money living on post. Renting here would have been a lot worse which is why we decided to buy.

  2. I enjoyed reading this for several reasons. One I have no concept of what military life is like so I appreciated know more about that. Two, it's nice to know I'm no the only one that get the "grass is greener" bug. And three...thanks for reminding me to focus on what I HAVE not what I don't have :)

  3. Hello! My cousin just shared your blog with me today because she saw that you were a military wife and thought we had enough in common I would enjoy reading your blog - and she was quite right. I actually think we'Re the same base lol. Just wanted to tell you I really like your blog and knowing I'm not the only one who feels like an outcast in this whole military wife world. I love your shop too! I was pleasantly surprised to find that your blog was shared with me because of the military wife status but it just so happened you had the hippy skirts and tattoo and new age aesthetic too lol. Just wanted to compliment you! I'll keep following :)

    1. Hey! Shoot me an email and let's see if we are at the same base! ;) Thanks for reading, and for commenting!!