Investing in our future without spending a dime!

As a young, married couple with a three month old baby, Brittni and I have taken a new approach to investing. Beyond paying our monthly mortgage, we don’t do it. At that, please don’t offer me unwelcome advice about the need to plan for our retirement or keep an emergency fund to cover 6 months of living expenses. I know that those things are important. They just aren’t as important as paying hospital bills, buying formula and diapers, or feeding ourselves. So if we are not investing financially in our future, what are we doing? We are investing our time and energy to increase the value and marketability of our home.

When Brittni and I bought our house, there were a couple of things that were very apparent about it. The first was that the house may have been on the market longer than usual due to the unsightly yard. Stray trees had grown up in various spots in the yard and instead of cutting them down, the previous owner left them for shade that he could utilize while burning trash in a rusty old barrel behind the garage. Although the trash from the household was burned, it is safe to say that any tree branches that had fallen were not. There were massive piles of brush strewn across the two and a half acres that a book of matches made quick work of. With some elbow grease, a lot of hours, and an arsenal of lawn tools and equipment, I have slowly cleared the brush, trimmed the trees, and removed all of the garbage. I have built flower beds, removed an eye sore chain link fence, and sprayed the giant patches of weeds behind the garage as well. Countless hours have been spent managing our yard and giving our little home some much needed curb appeal.

Secondly, the previous owner was a DIY-er. I won’t say all of the work they did is shoddy, but my guess is that all of the shoddy work was done by them. The siding on the house looks great from a distance but on closer inspection, the corners don’t line up and the angles are cut wrong along the eaves. Inside the house, the original stained crown molding is infected with paint from the ceiling and walls due to poor masking. In the basement, the outlet for the dryer is on the opposite wall of the hookups for the washing machine. These little details brought the price of our home down as well. We haven’t spent nearly as much time on these little fixes, but I plan to refasten the siding, reroute the wiring in the basement, and scrape the drips of paint from the beautiful hardwood molding.

Lastly, one of the lot lines ends adjacent to a small river that floods over half of the yard multiple times every spring. Unfortunately for us, we purchased the home in August. Before buying the home, we asked our insurance provider if we needed flood insurance. We were told that our home was in a zone where a damaging flood would only occur once every 200 years. I made the assumption that this meant any flooding would be minimal. Boy was I wrong. Any rising water we have seen has yet to damage anything but my ego as I try to pull my garden tractor from the over saturated turf. To reduce the flooding, I have started filling in the low spots to improve the slope of the yard. This helps the water flow off of the lawn into a retainer that reconnects to the river. This hasn’t cost me any money either.

The family home makes up 20-30 percent of the average American’s net worth. Our family is no outlier to this statistic. A home is a big investment and we need to protect and improve it. Our home was priced the way it was due to the shortfalls we may not have noticed due to our excitement to start our lives together. We may not have a lot of money to make necessary repairs and updates, but we do have the time and energy to make the most of what we have. Although this isn’t our forever home, it is our current one, and we are working our hardest to make it appealing to the next young, naive couple looking for their first house.

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