As newlyweds in the early ’70’s, my wife and I were both working and for the first time in our lives, had enough money to enjoy travel and dining out on a regular basis. But that meant we weren’t saving anything, so after a year or so of the high life, we decided to begin saving for our first house. We vowed to cut our expenses, so at my wife’s urging, we created the budget shown below (click to enlarge).
After a year, we had saved $7,671, enough for a down payment on our first house, a 2 bedroom bungalow for $35,000 that needed lots of TLC. So on weekends and evenings after work, rather than traveling or eating out, we remodeled our new home top to bottom, inside and out. The place was gutted as shown in the kitchen photo below. All the old wallpaper was stripped, cracked plaster (no drywall) was repaired, creaky floors silenced, old carpet and linoleum removed, walls and exterior repainted, new kitchen cabinets and appliances added, bath redone, tub reglazed, etc. etc. Fortunately, the home was close enough to work that I could walk, so we only needed one car. That savings allowed us to gradually purchase some new furniture as well. which meant we finally got rid of our Mediterranean-style furniture with all the red upholstery and dark wood. Ugly, but believe it or not, it was the style way back when!
One Sunday afternoon, before actually closing on the home and moving in, we made arrangements with the sellers to check out the place in order to better prepare for the planned remodeling. While inside, through a back window, I spotted two older men talking to each other near our back yard, so I took the opportunity to go outside and introduce myself to our new neighbors. Apparently, their first impression of me was not good, as they were like curmudgeons trying to outdo each other at not being very friendly to this new kid on the block. That is until my wife eventually came out to also meet them, and suddenly they became all gushy saying “Welcome to the neighborhood; great to meet you”. Obviously my wife made a much better first impression than me! From that day on, they were wonderful friends and neighbors, whom we stayed connected with through the years, always sharing and laughing about their curmudgeon transformation.
We enjoyed that first house for three years, at which time we accepted a promotional opportunity and transferred out-of-state to Indiana. So our first home was reluctantly put on the market after all the blood, sweat and tears we put into the place. But it paid off, as it sold in less than a week for $55,000, a nice gain on our original investment that provided a good down payment on a newer and larger colonial-style house that needed little work. It’s a good thing, because shortly thereafter, my wife became pregnant, so the only work required on the new home was to decorate a nursery, which was a labor of love (pun intended!). We were living the American Dream, while enjoying every minute in our pursuit of happiness; a state of mind that continues to this day.