Splash update

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Just a quick post to let you know Splash is doing well.

20150913We took another truck load of stuff up to the house today and Splash was looking a lot better. Her ribs were still showing but closer to normal now. I find it amazing how in just a few weeks she is in better condition due to the kindness of a handful of strangers than she was when she had full time carers.

While we were at the house, one of her potential new owners showed up to spend a few hours with her. She has to make a decision whether to take her or not by tomorrow as there are two other people in line to take her on. Things are looking up for the lovely Splash.

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And the moving begins

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With just two weeks to go until the official move date, Mr T and I have started moving. We hired a truck this weekend and on Saturday we, okay mainly Mr T, moved all the boxes and small stuff that didn’t require two strong people to carry it. Mr T counts as one, I count as a little bit. Upper body strength is my weakness. On Sunday, Mr T and his mate Steve moved all the heavy stuff that we weren’t using. This house is pretty empty now. Apparently you can’t get in the front door of the new house.

I wasn’t much help unpacking the truck at the other end. I suppose you could say I went into a kind of shock. Now these are first world problems, so please be patient with me. You know when you look at a house, you forget to notice all the important things? Things like old school fluorescent lighting in every room. Holes in the curtains. Pictures scratched into the walls. Deadbolts on the bedroom doors (why?!?).

Now I’m not known for my superior house work skills, but I do have standards. Not as high as my mum or mother in law, but standards nonetheless. There are dead bugs in the light fittings, lots of them. You can’t see through the fly screens because of the bugs and cob webs. And there are cob webs everywhere.

I was too scared to use the toilet and spent most of the time crying. Yep, I’m a grown up!

Granted, the estate agent did leave a note apologising for the lack of cleaning and offered to send her cleaner around during the week, but there is now so much furniture in there, it wouldn’t be safe for anyone to enter. But as usual, Mr T is my knight in shining armour, he is going to make it his first job once we are actually living there to get rid of all bug and spider related shit. I love that man.

There was another thing that brought tears to my eyes. The previous tenants decided to leave their horse behind. Splash is her name, she is eight years old and hasn’t been broken in.

Splash 201509082I would like to say that her condition is poor because she’s been abandoned for the past month but I think the lack of care goes back a bit further.

Splash 201509081The landlord and estate agent are trying to find a new home for her, and they may have one but only time will tell. The landlord is throwing hay over the fence for her and Mr T noticed that our neighbour (with two horses of her own) is doing the same, but she really needs a proper feed, a vet visit and a visit from the farrier. We’ve asked them to let her stay there until they find her a home, the other option was for them to “get rid of her”. We won’t let that happen. Whilst she seems a sweet girl and comes over for a chat and a carrot when we’re there, we don’t know much about horse care at all, other than it can cost a bit, so keeping her as our own isn’t really an option. And don’t worry mum, we’ll keep the kids away from her.

I’ll keep you updated.

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The new abode

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The next stop on our journey is a rental property. We’ve chosen to rent for a few reasons. We don’t know if we’ll like living in the country, I’m sure we will but.. Have you seen the movie Hot Fuzz? Or Funny Farm for that matter. Things like that play on my mind. There is also the part about buying a large piece of land being more complicated than buying a house in the ‘burbs. It could take more than a year to find anything that suits us and then we still have to build on it. The idea of us living in a caravan or shed whilst building was discussed and though it’s not out of the question, it’s not my first choice. Oh and the big one, I don’t think anyone will lend us money for a while.

We came across a few issues in regards to renting in the country, the first being that there isn’t much out there, the second being that it’s a two hour drive, one way, to go and look at what is available.

The first trip to look for our new home was made as a family, the second Ruby said she’d prefer to go to school than sit in a car with us for four hours and for the third trip, Ruby went to school and Ella and Max went to my mum’s for the day. Peace at last.

I was a little concerned. We had a settlement date on the house and nowhere to go. We saw two houses that would be described as being in “original condition”. We could have lived in either of those; they were in town and close to the school and kinder. One however was a little too central, it was surrounded by; the ambulance service, council offices, youth services, fire station, court house, police station and post office. The second was a lovely house, over the road from the school. Unfortunately the owners were using the garage as storage and some of their furniture was still in the house, which left us with the problem of where to put our stuff.

Another one we saw in town had a garage and a built in pool. Again the garage was used by the owner as storage leaving the tenant with nowhere to put stuff. And by stuff I mean a lawn mower to mow the grass, exciting stuff like that. As for the pool, the gate would remain locked and wouldn’t be included as part of the rental. “C’mon kids, let’s grab our towels and sit outside and look at the pool”. That would have been cruel.

As my feelings of desperation were growing and I was lying in bed at night thinking fuck it, I’m over this, let’s just rent a tiny place in the burbs and go back to doing what we were doing and what the majority is still doing and striving for. The thought of which just upset me more. I know we are doing the right thing for us and staying on this consumer roundabout is not the way we want to head, but taking that leap of faith is really hard. Not only do I have to fight the external voices; well-meaning friends and relatives and advertising but I have to fight the voices in my head and those voices are strong and critical, it takes a lot of work to make them positive. We found two more places to look at.

The first one is about one year old, the back of two units and on its own title. Two bathrooms, dishwasher, heating and cooling, double garage. Pretty much what we have here, just at a third of the size and price. It is walking distance to the school and kinder. There are two downsides; you can stretch out and touch the back fence from the back door and you can hear the next door neighbours eating their lunch.

The second one is a sandstone house built in the mid-eighties that sits on eight acres of land. It has a view of the snow-capped mountains and is on the edge of a state forest. The downsides are many. Being built in the eighties, the walls and ceiling are orange pine only broken up by the orange of the sandstone. It’s a quarter of the size of our current home. There is no mains water, only tank water. No dishwasher. Questionable internet connection. No garage. The promise of huntsman spiders and snakes in summer. And a fifteen minute drive into town.

When the real estate agent said "sandstone house on acreage", this is kind of what I imagined. My imagination was wrong.

When the real estate agent said “sandstone house on acreage”, this is kind of what I imagined. My imagination was wrong.

My head said the new house, my heart said the old house. They were both the same price. We decided to apply for both and go with what was decided for us. Surely in this market we wouldn’t get both. We got both. And because whenever we go the boring route things get boring, we went for the old house on eight acres. Really, who needs running water?

We start moving our stuff this weekend. I’ll get some photos while I’m there.

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A light bulb moment

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I’ve been walking around feeling a little lighter since the house was sold, sure we’re still living here and have bills to pay but knowing that we’re about to move on has kept me going. That and the fact that I’ve just learned a major life lesson; money and stuff against family and life, or so I thought.

In the past week, I’ve had a virus and I’ve strained my neck so the wonderful Mr T has stepped up, once again, and started the packing. I can’t even say I’ve helped, unless saying things like “what if we want to watch a DVD before we leave?” or “sweety, where are the extension cords?” could be classed as helping. I don’t think so. Once we get to our new house, it will be me that does most of the unpacking, Mr T will try and help but I’ll stand firm and do it myself, he’s done so much already. Really it’s just my control freak coming out and if I let him put stuff away I’ll never find it again.

Anyway, back to my lesson. I’ve been walking around thinking “where the hell am I going to fit everything?”. Our new home is a quarter of the size of this one. Currently we have a toy room upstairs and one down stairs, that’s where the toys are kept. The kids have a bookshelf upstairs, we have one down stairs. All the art supplies are kept in a storeroom under the stairs. Down stairs there is Lego in a box, cars and trains in another box and a small cupboard with paper and pencils. There is also a lovely office at the front of the house. What do you think happens? Everyone goes off to get what they want to play with and brings it into the back room where we spend all of our waking time. Even me, I work from home but I don’t use the office. It’s cold and lonely down there, I set myself up on the dining room table, that’s where all the fun is. And at the end of the day, the kids all take their play things and put them back where they got them from. Oh hang on, that was a dream I had. In reality, it all ends in screaming as cleaning up deals are negotiated, which ends in us giving up because we can’t be bothered arguing and we clean it all up ourselves.

That’s when the lightbulb moment hit. We have spent the last two years living in a storage facility for our stuff! Granted we have already given a lot of stuff away, which is why we had to hire things to fill our home with when we sold it, but we were being slaves to the stuff we still have.

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Prior to the sale, the office was used as a fancy storage place for a desk. After the sale it is still being used for storage…

In our new home the art supplies will be in boxes under the dining table, bonus is that I won’t have to get up to find forgotten things in the storeroom. Lego will be in their bedrooms, if the little darlings want to walk in there or play with something else, they’ll have to clean it up to be able to reach the other stuff. Books will be in the lounge room, maybe more reading if they’re close by. My office will once again be the dining room table but I’ll be able to paint with the handy art supplies at my feet when I take a break.

There is one thing for certain, I can bet that there will be a trip to Ikea in the very near future. I see the need for storage.

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… and so if

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And so if you find yourself in a less than ideal financial situation, talk to someone and do it as early as possible. Whether it’s $2,000 on a credit card or a shitload* on a mortgage, there are people that can help and in some cases entire departments that can help. We started talking with the bank and then moved on to a community/government financial counsellor. There are also church groups that can help.

We’ve looked at this as a lesson learned, one that’s been beaten into us really, this wasn’t a subtle lesson. Of course I’ve had the “if only” conversation in my mind a bazillion times but, if we hadn’t made the decision for Mr T to work on the other side of the country and if we hadn’t decided to build a bigger than necessary house, we wouldn’t be where we are now, about to embark on a new adventure. It might have taken a lot longer for us to work ourselves out and the lesson we’ve learnt might have come in an entirely different form, one that may well have been a lot less pleasant. After all, it’s only money.

I could look at this from another point of view, there are no lessons, just life. All that we’ve been through is just what it is, consequences of our choices. And if that’s the case, thank fuck that’s over.

* A financial term for “Seriously, how much?!?”

More fun than money

I think these guys are more fun than money

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For Sale!

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At the start of July, we started the public side of selling our dream. Our old dream. The dream that we thought we wanted, the dream that the media sells us. It was hard. We had all our hopes pinned to this house. We thought we could work during the week and live on the weekends. Relax and entertain in our new spacious home. Life’s not like that though. Life happens every minute of the day, not just on weekends when you plan on it happening. Turns out the weekends were spent cleaning the house we lived in during the week anyway. It was a bag of mixed emotions. My feelings changed about every five minutes.

So the sign went up and our carefully planned and staged images hit the internet. Bring on three weekends of Open For Inspections, plus a few private showings too.

Now I’ve done OFI’s before but not with three small children, two cats, one dog and a freakin huge house. For three weekends, the kids were shipped to my mum’s house for the morning (thanks mum!), whilst we cleaned, polished, arranged, washed dog snot off glass doors and hid stuff. All to sell the consumer dream to the next people. Things like washing (clean and dirty), toasters, TV cords and laptops were packed into the car, along with the animals, so there were no reminders of the reality of everyday life on show. We needed people to think of the positives not the negatives. I felt guilty about this, as we were selling a dream that we didn’t think existed. I console myself with the thought that people willingly entered into this house and placed offers on it without any coercion. It is after all, the same dream we once had.

A down side with speed cleaning, Mr T did his back cleaning the floors and I did mine cleaning the shower. Apparently we were putting a little too much energy into it. We were both up and going a few days after.

Three weeks later we got our offers. We got a great price, enough to pay out our debts, buy a new (to us) car and have some left over for a deposit on some land. The sale was unconditional and we have a 60 day settlement. We’ll be on our way in late September!

Sold

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Please release me let me go…

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We had our default letter from the bank. We needed to attach it to a multi-page application detailing our day to day finances; every cent in and every cent out. Our financial counsellor sent off our application, along with her recommendation letter, to the Department of Human Services. We now had to wait again, but this time with a government department. Strangely though, this is when things started to move quickly and smoothly.

To our pleasant surprise, one short week later Mr T got a phone call from Human Services. Just a few quick questions from them and a promise to call back with their decision. A two hour wait and we had our answer, yes, they will release our Super.

How much? They explained there are two breakdowns they look at when deciding how much; arrears plus 12 months interest on the mortgage or arrears plus three months of mortgage payments. Both have a ceiling of $40,000. They choose the lesser of the two. And yes, it is taxed. They sent us a letter approving the release of arrears owing and three months of mortgage payments. We then sent this letter to the Super company, who had the final say on releasing the funds. Just a few days later, the Super company transferred the money, less tax, to our bank account.

Party time! Let’s go shopping! Holiday! Nope, not for us. Not even a celebratory fancy pants dinner at the pub. We transferred the arrears owing on the mortgage and left the remainder in our account. At this point, we advised the bank’s solicitor that we intended on selling the house and commenced our mortgage payments again. But wait, things changed again. The bank now has a new department for this kind of situation, the Selling Houses Where The Mortgage Is At Default Department (I made this name up, but it really does exist). Whilst I don’t know if it is really a department, with important people sitting at computers typing numbers and if it is, it’s a sad state that they need an entire department for that job. How many people are out there in the same situation? Or it it’s one guy sitting at the desk near the office toilets and he is the entire department. Anyway… Our mortgage moved from the solicitors to the “Department” where they monitor the sale of the house, send valuers out and call us every now and then to see how the sale is progressing. The bonus of this is that we don’t have to make repayments, they do however encourage us to pay what we can, when we can. Which is what we’re doing, just to keep the interest and arrears down a bit. But the pressure is off.

As with all house sales, there were a few things that needed to be done before we sold. Mr T needed to finish the back and front decks and I had to make one more set of curtains. We used some of the Super funds for this. Mr T has received numerous compliments regarding his deck.

A nice shot of Mr T's deck

A nice shot of Mr T’s deck

We also needed to furnish the house, and we weren’t going to buy anything, so we looked into hiring furniture. We tried one interior designer who left me feeling sad and broken, and that had nothing to do with her $10,000 estimate. Some people just aren’t that good at telling you they don’t like what you’ve done with the place. The second one we spoke to was great, a lot more tactful. A house full of furniture, including 47 cushions (not an exaggeration), four bowls of balls to put on low lying coffee tables (the kids are loving those), throw rugs, vases and all sorts of stuff that needs dusting and organising, plus two interior designers to set it all up and two men to move it all and pick it up again once it’s finished. A grand total of $3,000! This was for six weeks hire and included insurance. We booked them to coincide with the house going on the market.

The bed looks like this every morning, no really.

The bed looks like this every morning, no really.

We had already spoken to five real estate agents and had signed with one, with the plan to put the house on the market in the first week of July.

We were now on the market!

 

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Isn’t that just Super!

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In Australia, our retirement fund is known as Superannuation, or Super as it’s generally called. Employers must contribute 9% of your income to a Super fund of your choosing. There are rules, regulations, tax benefits and the like that go with it. There are a myriad of options. You can self manage and save yourself the enormous fees that are charged and if you’re self-employed there are another set of rules.

I’m not a huge fan of Super. In this last financial year, just on 25% of my contributions went to fees and taxes. I also don’t like the idea of putting money away for something that may or may not happen (controversial I know). I do realise that one day there is a good chance that we’ll be in the position where we can’t earn money, and we do have a few things in mind. Firstly, we want to create a life now that we don’t want to retire from, something we can keep going with and if needed slowdown from. Secondly, if our darling children don’t want to care for us as we get older, we can sell up and move to something smaller.

So when the financial counsellor suggested the option of accessing our Super to pay the arrears on our mortgage, we looked into it. Our thoughts were that the money would benefit us more now than it would 20 years down the track, and when we did sell the house, the more money we had in our hands after paying down our debts would be good, as we’re pretty sure no one will lend us money for a while.

This option had been used by others before us, but in the time that had lapsed between their experience and ours, the rules had changed. It’s now a lot harder to do. There are a few reasons listed as to why you can access your Super money before retirement, fortunately arrears on your mortgage due to financial hardship is one of them.

The first step is to apply to the Department of Human Services with your reason as to why you need the money. You need to include in the application a letter from your bank stating what you owe in arrears. That part wasn’t simple. As we were still paying the bank money, 60% of our payments, the bank would not give us the letter. In their reasoning, we were still maintaining payments. But in the same breath, they wanted us to increase our payments to our normal rate plus extra to cover the arrears. Aghhh!!!

The advice from our financial counsellor? Stop paying the mortgage. What?!?! My brain couldn’t handle this. I’ve been paying a mortgage for almost 20 years now (this is my fourth home purchase, second with Mr T), and living somewhere and not paying for it really got the anxiety levels up. But this seemed the most logical way of getting rid of the arrears that had accumulated. So I just let it go (let it go, can’t hold it back anymore…). The money that would have normally gone to mortgage payments went to paying down the other debts we accumulated. Our credit card, with the same bank, was at its limit of $10,000 and whilst they were nice enough to freeze if for three months, the debt and associated interest was still there. We also had about $20,000 on a personal loan, this was from two frivolous purchases; a driveway and a retaining wall that held up the side of our house. The credit union that held the loan put it on hold for us for a total of six months, with no interest accruing and no charges added. After the six months were up, they reduced the payments and extended the loan. Total of extra interest we’ll be paying because of this? About $300. Needless to say, all our banking will be going to them once we sell.

So feeling like naughty children, we stopped paying our mortgage and waited for the bank to send us a letter. About five weeks after our last payment we received our first letter, which stated “Failure to resolve the arrears with 7 days will result in us taking further collections actions on this account”. We rang them and explained that we were not in a position to resolve the arrears. Later in the week the first Final Notice arrived. “Failure to resolve the arrears within 7 days will result in your account being escalated to our external solicitors for a resolution”. So we rang them and told them that we were still not in a position to resolve the arrears. Five weeks later we got our second Final Notice (this is because we rang them to find out what was happening), again it stated “Failure to resolve the arrears within 7 days will result in your account being escalated to our external solicitors for a resolution”. Come on! We were eager to get this over and done with. Whilst it was exhilarating living in a house we weren’t paying for, we wanted to get ourselves sorted out.

Two weeks later we finally got a letter from the bank’s solicitor. We had our default letter!

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The untanglement – how it all began

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A few warnings here, I will be making up words, I believe our situation needs new words to describe it. And in no way is this financial advice. To take financial advice from me, well, that would just be stupid. This is also not a sob story, there is no blame, it’s just how things happened. It was a way for us to learn a lesson.

A quick recap on how this all started…

About four years ago, two things happened. I got pregnant, a little earlier than planned, but as with all things child related, nothing is predictable. And Mr T got a great paying job, on the other side of the country.

Our response? Let’s get a bigger house for our family; soon to be two big people, three little people, two dogs and two cats. Hey, and because we now have a great deal of money coming in, lets borrow more than we need to and build a house three times bigger than our current one. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s increase our living standard to use up the rest of the money not going to the mortgage. But we were a little bit smart, we didn’t borrow as much as the bank was willing to lend us. In our defence, we did look into adding an extension to our current home, but the bank wouldn’t lend us the money to do that, they did however lend us three times what that would have been to build a new home.

All was going well until Mr T was made redundant. Long story short, here we are. Up shit creek.

When I last wrote about this, we went to see the financial counsellor, and that’s pretty much where it stopped. I couldn’t put anything down in writing at the time. We had a plan worked out with the counsellor, but we had to wait and see how it played out before I could put it here.

With me working part-time and Mr T’s new normal paying job, we were able to pay the mortgage and buy food or pay the mortgage and pay bills or buy food and pay bills, but we couldn’t do all three things at the same time. We weren’t even looking at the extras like clothes and vodka. So we spoke to the bank. And they were great, and I will say that through this entire process, they’ve been really good. The good side of my brain tells me they were doing this because they’re nice people and genuinely wanted to help us out. The cynical side of my brain tells me they were doing this because the longer they strung us out, the more interest was accruing and the more money they were making from us.

We first approached the bank in December 2013 and told them we were in trouble. They gave us three months where we didn’t need to make payments, after that, our payments would resume and we would have to look at paying back the amount that was in arrears. During the three months of no payments, interest would still be accruing. After buying food and paying our bills, we used the left over money to pay outstanding debts that had built up.

In April 2014, the bank increased our payments to cover the arrears that had built up. By about June 2014, we were in trouble again. We contacted the bank and this time they waived our payments for one month. Again, interest continued to accrue.

Come September 2014, guess what? So we contacted the bank again, this time they reduced our payments by about 40% and suggested we speak to a financial counsellor. Full payments resumed in December. At this point the arrears had grown to a fairly hefty amount.

Our first goal was to get rid of the arrears. Enter our retirement fund…

 

 

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My inspiration – the other stuff

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I was getting geared up to write a post on what’s been happening, at last! But I’ve been gagged at the very last minute. One last hurdle to clear and I can let you know what we did to untangle ourselves from our financial mess and what’s happening next.

So in the meantime, here’s some more light reading. No category for these really, just shits and giggles.

Hands Free Mama – This lady seems to write the things I need to hear at the right time. To me, her style of writing is very powerful.

Reservoir Dad – Funny words from a parent of four.

One day, I will learn to sew clothes and my inspiration will come from Gertie and Sew Retro Rose. I’d also have to add The Rockabilly Socialite for more inspiration. Is hippy/rockabilly even a thing?

The Idler – for deep reflection and inspiration to do nothing.

Becoming Minimalist – to remind me I don’t need all the stuff I’m told I need.

Free Range Kids – because kids are kids and sometimes I forget.

Slugs on the Refrigerator – An artist living her life, a freelance designer.

Tom of Holland – Another artist, a “self-taught textiles practitioner”.

Retro Mummy – A very clever lady with lots of kids, talent and obviously more time in the day than us mere mortals

Looking at the lists of blogs I read, I now realise why I have no time to knit and sew. Maybe I should stop reading about it and do it. Soon maybe I’ll have time for both.

Thanks for putting up with my blog lists, I hope to resume regular programming shortly.

Love,

Bridget

 

Like what you just read? I would love it if you shared it around.

 

 

 

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