Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good-Bye 2009!

It's coming on 2010 and I can't think of any year that I've wanted to end as much at this one. I'm a glass-half-full type, and will continue to be, only if the next year will come on a little more softly than the last. 2009 started on a positive note. We had two rental properties leased up with great tenants, a brand new house to live in, Al had a great job with benefits and retirement, and my Equine Programs were going well. Then ... The BIG clobber! First, one tenant lost their job and moved out, then the next. Then, with both units vacant, Colorado laws changed where I was no longer able to teach Animal Therapy, and AL GOT LAID OFF! OUCH!

With two vacant rentals, 3 substantial mortgages, and no buyers in sight, the prospect of living on unemployment with no health insurance became a very frightening reality. Wow. There we were, in the same boat as most Americans in the middle of a recession. Screwed.

As we do, Al and I sat down and hashed out a plan. First, we distributed 200 resumes to every possible employer in our area. We were busily running on empty worrying that we would lose it all and end up in a tent city. We hired a Realtor to list the rentals, but she was so depressed herself that it was difficult to talk to her. She was nothing but gloom. Every time I'd see the tent people on TV, it would scare me to death. This was soon to be us.

I listed every extra item that we owned on Craigslist. EVERYTHING. Whatever made me think that we were going to sell our brand new "Fun Finder" travel trailer to someone in the middle of a great recession was beyond me. Especially since the going price was thousands less than we owed. But, we persevered. We did have several people look at the trailer, but they didn't want to pay much for it. Eventually, we made the sacrafice and ended up taking $2,000. out of savings to contribute to the highest offer. We paid it off, and sold it.

Next, we shaved down every possible expense. We cut our TV services to the bare minimum. We cancelled our land line service with Qwest. We lowered our car insurances to liability only. Fortunately, we had re-financed the house for a lower payment BEFORE Al got laid off, so that was as low as it could be. Since we were coming into the spring, I planned the biggest garden that I had ever planted. This year, however, would have to come from seeds rather than the previously purchased seedlings from a local nursery. As opposed to the previous year, all flowers and vegetables were grown from seed rather than seedlings. Ha! This was the difference of about $20.00 for the entire landscape as opposed to over $1,000 the year before. And, what a garden we had, I might add. We saved thousands of dollars on food that summer!

In March, Al was hired by a Plumbing Company that's been around for a while. A small company, but busy nonetheless. $3.00 less per hour than his previous job, no company car or gas, no retirement, very expensive insurance for me, but a job. All in all, around $1,600. per month less than before. Even so ... Yay! Since things appeared to be turning positive for us, I decided to try to find a more positive realtor who eventually sold both rental units to first time buyers under the governments first time buyer tax rebate.

Where are we now? When things eventually turn around, we'll be the most efficient household in the country! Our expenses are carved down to the minimum. Our mortgage is as low as possible. The garden is in place for our next spring planting (seeds, no matter how much money that we have), and our house is for sale. We haven't lost any equity in the house because of it's location in Colorado. We both published books which had been labors of love sitting on the shelf when we were busy, and now they're on Amazon!

Having lived in Oregon for many of my younger years, I know about the simple lifestyle there. Most people grow their own vegetables. There are community co-ops for bartering many services tax free, and prices are much lower than Colorado with no sales tax on purchases. I've recently passed the Oregon Real Estate Exam, and applied for a non-active license until I can get back there. Even though unemployment is high in Oregon, Al and I are very positive about our plans. We've made it through the toughest of times. We've got an emergency fund in the bank. COBRA is expensive for me and will run out this year, but we're grateful that we never ended up in a tent, we're both healthy, and the future can only be brighter than the recent past.

God bless us all. We Americans are a resilient people. We will get through this. Jobs will come back, money will flow, and we'll all be talking about 2009 for years to come! Happy Holidays, everyone. Please take a breath and do something nice for yourself, or for someone else. We have a lot to be grateful for, believe it or not. Good Luck on your job hunt, and I hope that 2010 brings positive changes for us all! Happy New Year!

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