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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » How do people do it? (a rant of sorts)

   
Author Topic: How do people do it? (a rant of sorts)
Jim-Me
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Let me remind people that I am one of the more conservative voices on this board.

I am a college graduate with 9 years job experience and a decent wage-- decent enough that I cannot qualify for *any* government help.

Nonetheless on an average week, between rent and day care I have approximately $100 remaining from my take-home pay to account for *all* other expenses. Let me say that again... rent and day care *ALONE* account for all but $100 of my weekly paycheck. State law requires that I have a four bedroom house for a family my size so I can't really trade down there. My kids range from 12 years old down to 2 years old, so daycare is a requirement as well because 3 of them are at school, while two must be watched. The 12 year old isn't really mature enough to be watching them, anyhow.

Now, I'm doing ok, because my girlfriend and I are close enough that I can draw a good bit of financial support from her... but I'd really like to be independent for the very obvious reason that it is my responsibility, not hers.

So, let's say, poof, she's gone. Now what? My ex-wife will start paying child support in July, so that's some help, but since her sole form of support is selling "vintage" clothing on e-bay I don't really expect much there. So, what is someone supposed to do with this? is it possible to raise 5 kids on $100 a week?

And forgive me... I want to be clear that I am not so much asking for help as wondering if everyone on earth knows something basic that I don't, because I see people tossing around money in ways that are shocking to me. I'm not talking about lavish expenditures, but things like investments and savings and going out for a few beers with the guys and not only buying lunch every day, but spending $8-10 on it instead of ordering off the McD's value menu. And our whole economy is based on that... a look at the commercials will tell you that the big ticket items make the world go round-- widescreen HD TV's, large, expensive SUVs and sedans that still only manage to seat 5, and the latest game systems.

How do people do it?

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Javert
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Well, generally speaking, the people I know who do that don't have as much responsibility as you do.
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The Pixiest
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Most people aren't unmarried with 5 kids =(

(insert huge rant on the destruction of the family and the evils of divorce unless it's really really necessary and how we should encourage marriage instead of making it illegal and blah blah blah)

Pix

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fugu13
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Are you sure you don't qualify for any aid? I mean, even an income of $38k will (barely) qualify for (for instance) reduced price school lunches in most places for a family of five.
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DaisyMae
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It is possible. It just sucks.

My sister got SCREWED financially by her ex husband while they were married. He lied about having money they didn't have and spent what little they did have on frivolities. My sister raised two kids on about thirty dollars a week for over a year. They ate a lot of eggs and ramen noodles and got clothes from wherever they could. It was a blessing when she got rid of him.

Hang in there. I hate this saying so much when people say it to me, but "it could be worse." At least you've got each other, right?

And I'm with ya on watching people around you spending money. I often wonder the same thing, "where are they getting their money?" Of course, consumer debt is OUTRAGEOUS in this country. I'll bet a lot of the big ticket items are being bought on credit.

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jeniwren
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State law *requires* that you have a 4 bedroom house?! How does that work? I'm sort of shocked by the thought that the state can tell me that I have to have a certain size house for the size family I have.

I don't have any thoughts for you other than to tell you I think you're a spendid person, one of my most favorite Jatraqueros. I honestly believe that all your struggles current and in the past will amount to something beautiful in the long run. (That probably sounds weird...I hope you understand what I mean...)

*hugs*

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General Sax
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Back in the good old days I would go down the the clubs in St Louis and buy four hundred dollars worth of food stamps for a hundred bucks, but now they have that credit card, I feel for all the poor who can no longer get a lap dance or a bottle of Jack (unless strippers are taking those Aid Cards...)

I do not know your climate and what kind of access you have to farmland but a garden can help, and canning, and hunting and fishing. I know that these things are not for everyone but my neighbor growing up raised seven seven kids and they took five deer a year (all legal, two farm permits, two bought tags and a bow permit) had a big garden, raised a couple of hogs a year and a calf they had chickens and a milk cow most years.

It was strange to be 'poor' but grow up eating duck, quail, pheasant and venison, I laugh every time I see a menu with a thirty five dollar meal that I used to eat twice a week in season.

If you hang on that oldest kid can start being a help, I am sure you can at least qualify for some sort of federal housing assistance to buy a home instead of renting, at least then you will be accumulating some of that money you spend as equity. Plus with five kids you are not paying any taxes, that is nice...

I won't tell you about how grandma stretched the condoments... shudder.

I am sure the New Englanders laugh at the price we pay for lobster but I am glad I do not have to eat that twice a week.

Packaged meat in a deep freeze can stretch the meat budget, and fruit is cheaper then candy. You need to make a logistical plan and stick to it, set up a menu with rations and then plan plan plan. Like you said, you cannot afford to be an impulse shopper.

Plus all that planning skill might impress the girlfriend enough that she will stick around and keep pitching in...

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Verloren
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I definitely feel for you. My family and I have been struggling A LOT up until just a couple months ago (not as much as you, but just barely eeking by). We haven't had any "extra" money to spend either.

Now things are a bit easier and I was actually able to buy a book or two last month (yeah for Empire). The savings grace for us was that I had a work from home job in addition to my day job. That allowed me some flexibility, and it paid extremely well for this introverted, shy, rather-read-a-book-than-talk-to-someone, guy.

Another potential option is to find a higher-paying job. I don't know what you do or can do or the job situation there, but it may help.

Also, you could maybe potentially move to another state where the cost of living is cheaper. I know this has problems of its own and sometimes huge expenses, but it may help a lot. Of course, usually you get paid significantly less for the same job in these kinds of states, so you may not do any better there.

I know that lots of people live well beyond their means (something like $500 more each year than they actually make, or something like that). It all goes on credit cards that only get paid off maybe with a home equity loan or a large tax return. It's a vicious cycle, and why bankruptcy is so high in this country. I definitely recommend staying far away from this road (sounds like you are doing it already).

I wish you much success and blessings, especially at this time of year.

--V

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by jeniwren:
State law *requires* that you have a 4 bedroom house?! How does that work? I'm sort of shocked by the thought that the state can tell me that I have to have a certain size house for the size family I have.

I totally agree with this - I mean, Norway is a pretty socialist state by any measure (our Swedish brothers call us 'the last Soviet Republic'), but a law telling you what size house you can live in? Ridiculous! Are you sure you are understanding this correctly, and is the law actually enforced?
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Storm Saxon
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quote:

State law requires that I have a four bedroom house for a family my size so I can't really trade down there.

?

Ditto on Jeniwren's question.

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Mrs.M
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If there's a YMCA near you, they offer financial assistance for day care and their programs are, for the most part, great. Home day care can be less expensive, as well, but you have to make sure they're licensed. Also, your school district might have subsidized preschools that your little ones are eligible for.

I'm another one who is confused by state law requiring you to have a 4-bedroom house. Is it part of you divorce agreement?

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fugu13
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Also, health care organizations in your area likely offer substantial free assistance through various kinds of clinics; one is opening in our area open to people earning up to 200% of the poverty line (over $40k for a family of five).

Food banks are usually open to anyone.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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(I've heard of state laws that read "no more than two children per room" and "children over age X of opposite sex must sleep in different rooms" and the like. Not sure if those are the ones Jim-Me is talking about but I'm fairly certain that laws of this type exist, and with five kids in the household I can imagine a situation where the law would mandate four rooms.)

quote:
Of course, consumer debt is OUTRAGEOUS in this country. I'll bet a lot of the big ticket items are being bought on credit.
is what I thought. Lots and lots of debt, plus less responsiblity as Javert mentioned. Most people in such a situation don't have to provide food, clothing, and shelter for five others.

--j_k

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Jim-Me
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What James T Kirk said... state law mandates no more than two to a room. If I owned my property it'd be different, but given my credit situation, owning is utterly out of the question... I bet I'd have to have 25-30% down to get a mortgage and I'm not saving just a whole lot.

Thanks for the support and sympathy... I think that's really what I was looking for, just someone to say "wow, that sucks" instead of reminding me of all the stuff I have left undone.

fugu... food banks are a good idea, thank you. As for the other stuff, I don't even qualify for WIC. My income looks impressive, but by the time you take out taxes and health insurance (and I apologize for not mentioning that-- I *do* have basic health insurance) it's a little less considerable looking... then throw in that rent and day care account for nearly $600 a week and suddenly I have a pittance.

Mrs. M., we do have a YMCA and I will check that. My school district does offer a k4 program, but it is not offered at our particular school. I do use the after-school day care for the 1st and 4th grader and it reduces my cost considerably.

Pix, I would have been one of the ones ranting about the evils of divorce... but I can say first hand that strict divorce laws have made it an absolute nightmare trying to extricate myself from someone who has no interest in either continuing our relationship nor in actually doing anything to end it, legally... and I am going to leave it at that.

Edit: I didn't mean to ignore, you, General Sax, just that your self subsistence suggestions aren't really practical for my time situation... but believe me, I have more than once considered trying to put together a subsitence farming lifestyle and just "getting away from it all" permanently. Never in any great detail, but that appeals to me, believe it or not.

As for the planning, I am now doing that. See, till now I have been so busy surviving that I haven't been able tolook at things and figure out why I'm in such trouble... now that the numbers are in front of me, it's pretty easy to see why... and the how to fix it is coming. Slowly, but it's coming.

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Goody Scrivener
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quote:
Originally posted by jeniwren:
State law *requires* that you have a 4 bedroom house?! How does that work? I'm sort of shocked by the thought that the state can tell me that I have to have a certain size house for the size family I have.

I don't know about state laws becuase I never thought to check on that, but I do know that each town I have lived in over the past ten have had building code ordinances that require no more than two people over the age of 3 per bedroom (so if you have a 1yo, a 3yo and a 5yo, they can all share one room, or you can have the baby in with the parents up to age three), as well as guidelines as to what can be considered a "bedroom". I know this because my FIL's neighbors called the village to complain about how many cars were in the driveway of a 50s style ranch. My ex and I were in a walled-off section of the basement, the kids were in one bedroom, the MIL was in the other bedroom, and the FIL was using the dining room as a bedroom (and had been for over a decade by then). We were told that the dining room under no circumstances qualified (but didn't tell us why), and that because appropriate building permits weren't obtained for the segmentation of the basement, our "room" didn't count either. That was part of why the girls and I moved out when we did, and even though I knew I wasn't at risk of future violation I've asked about it every time I've moved since.

As for enforcement? When you own your home, the government rarely knows. Usually they find out when a neighbor complains or when they're in for an inspection after a construction project, or maybe because of an intervention by another agency. But when you're renting, the landlord is aware of those regs and because HE doesn't want to get in trouble for violating the regs, he makes sure that his tenants maintain compliance as well.

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Mrs.M
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BTW, Jim-me, some Ys also offers babysitting certification classes starting at age 11. If your Y has that, it might be just the thing for your 12-year-old.
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Jim-Me
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Good call... if it was actually presented to him in a class-like environment, he might well get the idea and the importance of his responsibilities in that situation more clearly.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Jim-Me:
What James T Kirk said... state law mandates no more than two to a room.

This is REALLY common. And since it mostly gets enforced when renting, not owning, it tends to be most commonly an issue for those who can least afford it.

My current apartment is a 3-bedroom, so not a problem. But a couple years ago, I was renting a two-bed-plus-den. The den was not legally a bedroom (no closet space? too small window? I forget why), although we did use it as one. However, it was still four people in two bedrooms, so it was ok.

Jim, getting on top of it is hard (especially if you're anything like me -- I loathe, hate, and detesting budgeting and tracking expenses and such). But it helps a lot, little bit by little bit.

Good luck!

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
We were told that the dining room under no circumstances qualified (but didn't tell us why)
It may vary from state to state, but the architects I worked with here (LA) say that for a room to be classified as a bedroom it needs a certain amount of floorspace, a closet, and a window.

Oh, and Jim-me, I have no idea how you manage. But I'm impressed, that's for sure.

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Jim-Me
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
Oh, and Jim-me, I have no idea how you manage.

[Blushing] thanks...

but I'm *not* managing, at least not just yet. As I indicated, I'm riding someone else's coattails pretty hard right now.

I *think* I'll be able to stop doing that by March. My absolute Drop Dead Date is July 31 07. If I can't hold my own by then... um... well I'm not sure what I'll do, but I'll do something!

It looks like I'll be allowed overtime again once the new year starts, so that will help a good bit.

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ketchupqueen
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Jim-Me, I feel ya. I do. And I know how scary it is to think of the what-ifs when you have kids. (What if my husband dies? I can't make enough to cover child care costs, much less rent. We don't have life insurance, it's not in our budget-- we're hoping this will be the year, with the new job.)

I have no practical advice, but I feel for you. Hopefully that's worth something. (((Hugs)))

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
quote:
We were told that the dining room under no circumstances qualified (but didn't tell us why)
It may vary from state to state, but the architects I worked with here (LA) say that for a room to be classified as a bedroom it needs a certain amount of floorspace, a closet, and a window.
And the closet has to have certain minimum dimensions, as does the window. At least here (L.A.)

[Wink]

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Jim-Me
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I *do* have life insurance (one of the few benefits I have as a contractor). My concern is more with their mom not being able to raise them in my absence.
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MandyM
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Jim, I feel your pain. My husband and I have only one child and we are a two income family. After taxes, health care, the mortgage, high car payments and day care, we are barely making it. We can't sell our house or cars right now since we owe more than they are worth. We did just move our daughter to a cheaper (and better) daycare and my husband now has a company vehicle woth paid gas so that helps. We are in debt up to our eyeballs from when my husband was out of work so many times so that is looming over us as well.

Here are a few suggestions. We took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class. You probably do not have the time for a 13-week class but maybe if you go to his website, you can buy the kit and learn it yourself. The money saving and planning tips are invaluable!

Also you are paying day care costs for 2 full time and 2 part time, right? You could hire 1 in-home babysitter full time and save the separate day care costs. She could stay all day with your two little ones and be there after school for the 2 older ones. We are actually waiting to have a second child until my 3-year-old goes to kindergarten because we don't want to have to pay for 2 kids in day care.

Another way to save money on food is to buy Angel Food from a local church. You don't have to qualify for anything and you can buy as many orders as you want. For $25, you get a huge box of food and they have specials for things like meat and other frozen items. It has drastically cut our food budget and I almost never have to buy meat at the grocery store anymore except for ground turkey.

There are also hardship programs with local utility companies that you might be able to check into. I don't know much about them but I know people who are not on assistance who have used them in my area.

I commend you for being such a strong father. Your kids are lucky to have you!

Oh and if you want a night out with the guys for a beer, take the kids to your ex and host a poker party at your place instead. Tell them it is BYOB and they always bring extra beer and you can bum off them! [Smile]

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Originally posted by Jim-Me:
I *do* have life insurance (one of the few benefits I have as a contractor). My concern is more with their mom not being able to raise them in my absence.

Yeah. Those were MY worries. But you see, we all do it.
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Jim-Me
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quote:
Originally posted by MandyM:
Oh and if you want a night out with the guys for a beer, take the kids to your ex and host a poker party at your place instead. Tell them it is BYOB and they always bring extra beer and you can bum off them! [Smile]

My ex is, unfortunately, about 500 miles away.

Thanks for the other suggestions, though. [Smile]

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ketchupqueen
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Oh! I thought of something I do! I cook on a budget. The Recipezaar budget cooking forum is invaluable. We especially do a lot of the beans and rice or meat-stretcher meals (I linked to the "threads of interest" thread, which has threads about both of those. And now I've said thread ten gazillion times.) I occasionally do some prep-ahead cooking, although not real OAMC, but that's just 'cause I like to cook several days a week. OAMC can be a real life-saver for working parents, I know.
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Jim-Me
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I could see how it would be. I'm doing ironing for the week every sunday night to get ahead... I don;t know if I could cook that much.

At the moment, I buy a lot of easy to make in bulk.

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MandyM
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Also your 12-year old can help cook. You could move the ironing near the kitchen to help supervise. Crock-pots are great too!

I am going to check out the recipezaar site! I use them for recipes already. Thanks for that tip.

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ketchupqueen
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I know that several moms in my area who do it enlist their kids. Older kids can cut and stir, younger kids can layer things in casseroles and bags, clean the freezer, wash dishes, etc. Doing it this way, families usually take about four hours every second or third Saturday morning to do two or three weeks' worth of food. Older kids can also be involved in the planning and shopping.

What I usually do is just make a triple or quadruple recipe of something like soup, or double the casseroles when I make them. Then I freeze the left-over (or the unbaked casserole) and it's ready for later popping in the oven or microwave for a quick dinner.

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Threadender
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If I were in your situation, my primary concern would be to reduce my big monthly expenses. I know it isn't easy, so you have to get creative. I started out renting an entire fourplex slum. I re-rented 3 units then renovated the one I was living in with the landlord agreeing to buy the materials. When the reno was done, I rented that apartment out at almost twice the price, and moved on to the next apartment to start the reno there. It took almost three years but in the end I was living for free, and even pulling in a few extra bucks. The landlord was delighted to get his place renovated at cost. Tenants were happy to live in a place that was always improving. Neighbors were happy that the slum was being fixed up. And I developed a whole new set of skills. I had never picked up a screwdriver before I started. It really isn't that hard and you'll learn as you go.

The same mentality got me to fixing my own car, saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year and giving me the confidence to buy cheap cars knowing I could keep them on the road.

Some more creative renting and you might manage to work in your daycare costs to the package.

It is sort of an urban version of farming and hunting for food. Eventually you may even be able to save enough to buy your own slum for fixin'.

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Belle
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Jim-Me, in addition to the Y, check and see if there are Boys and Girls' clubs in the area - I have a lot of friends who use the Boys and Girls' clubs for after-school care and it's considerably less expensive than normal daycare plus a nice facility for them to stay in.

I would check my state laws about how old the oldest child has to be before he can babysit younger siblings. It varies, but in some cases having a Red Cross babysitter certification can lower that age. Mrs. M's suggestion is a good one.

I know you've been through a lot, and I know it's hard, but I'm sure your kids appreciate what a dedicated father you are. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. [Smile]

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Threadender
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BTW, using that methodology, I have now 'retired' or at least stopped working full time at the ripe old age of 40. I don't have a lot of money, but I have very little monthly expense.
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Jim-Me
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Threadender,

I do my own maintenance (brakes, oil, etc. ) on my car already. I've got nowhere near the time or energy to dedicate to renovating and re-renting a rundown place at the moment, but that sounds like a good long-term goal. I considered it briefly-- there's this incredibly horrific hybrid in the country here where someone took a 3 bed 2 bath mobile home, cut the back wall out, and built about 2000 square feet of house on to it. The walls are finished to drywall and the outside is still tyvek... but it was 6 bedrooms and about 3200 sq ft for $40k. I gave some serious thought to it, and even to getting HGTV to do a program on us (watch these idiots try to renovate this monstrosity with 5 small children in tow!) but in the end decided I have enough to blow a gasket over as it is.

Belle, I don't know about BOy's and Girl's clubs here... I can check though... thanks for the advice and encouragement.

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