My credo: In the future, if we are unfamiliar with a city/neighborhood, we must rent an apartment first for at least a year to see if we like the region. Have an exit strategy in place if that is at all possible.
Between the 3 of my/our biggest financial mistakes mentioned so far, it's really a toss up as to which one really is the worst. Perhaps I should've listed 'Moving to the Desert' as Mistake #1 because moving to the desert should be considered our biggest financial mistake over all. Had we not moved to the desert, we wouldn't have built a custom home, we wouldn't have bought an apartment building in the ghetto, we probably wouldn't have experienced 2 bankruptcies or the 3 foreclosures ...... and we certainly wouldn't have spent a small fortune on cars.
We never considered the repercussions of moving out to a desert outpost, far away from other family members and friends, at the time that we did it. Most dire, we never considered just how difficult it would be to leave once we moved here. At the time, we were pleased at the prospect of increasing job related income but we never gave any thought to the emotional impact of uprooting ourselves and our children from a beach neighborhood that we loved and enjoyed.
We live miles from anywhere, an hour's drive in any direction to get out of the desert. Given the high cost of car maintenance and gas, making the decision to move out to this desert outpost was definitely not frugal. Yes, we bought cheaper housing here but, when considered with the cost of gasoline, the cost of regularly replacing a vehicle, the high cost of heating and cooling, the higher cost of food and, last but certainly not least, the opportunity cost of spending 3-4 hours each day stuck in a car in traffic as was the case when the spouse commuted... let's just say, in retrospect, that moving away from the beach area to a 'cheaper' place hasn't been so cheap after all. It costs a small fortune to be able to function in this place! Just recently it occurred to me that we could've stayed at the beach and ditched ALL the cars. Our housing costs would've increased, yes, but what difference would it have made financially had we not had to own a car? Not much. But, we never considered ditching our cars back in the day ~ *gasp!* ~ and instead made some pretty thoughtless, dumb financial choices.
The spouse was given an opportunity to gain a promotion plus more money by following a job into the desert. We made several long road trips from our home at the beach up into the Mojave during the summer months to see if we could stand the heat and, although we were not entirely sure that we were making the right move, we allowed ourselves to be swayed by a friend who had already moved here but who has since moved away. The spouse's employer also left out a very important point at the time: the promotion was entirely dependent upon government funding. Naturally, before the ink was even dry on the contract that we signed for our first house purchase here, the government yanked the funding, forcing the spouse to drive 100 miles one way to work (200+ miles daily) for the next decade. Over the course of this decade, the employer kept promising the spouse that the funding would materialize again in '6 months' or 'next year' or 'in the new year'..... and that stalemate went on for 10 years. The spouse, meanwhile, continued to commute to the original workplace at the beach, over 100 miles away from our desert town in some of the worst bumper-to-bumper traffic that SoCal has to offer. Sometimes the spouse couldn't face the evening commute home and would remain at the beach in a hotel or at friends' homes for days at a time. But one can only do that for so long. Meanwhile, at our desert home with me at the helm, things slowly fell apart. I got into drinking, hoarding and socializing with the wrong people, more out of loneliness than anything else. By the time the spouse realized what was going on and realized that he had to make that daily commute whether he wanted to or not, it was a wonder that he had anything left to come home to.
I spent everything that was deposited into the bank account. I spent to cheer myself up, to forget the boredom of living so far away from my friends, with a bunch of (sorry to say) backwards local yokel desert rats. I had never met such hateful, ignorant, negative people in all my life as those I met here in the desert and, yes, it has had a lasting impact on me. I live for the day when I can drive down that freeway for the last time on my way out, and hopefully it won't be in the back of a hearse!
Cutting it short, it cost a fortune in gasoline and car maintenance for the spouse to make that drive to work every day. The company van pool was expensive and car pooling with other employees who had also followed the 'dream job' up into the desert became a case of the spouse taking his life into his hands every day. Every single person he car pooled with was a drunk, drinking (like me) in an attempt to feel better about our situations. The gridlocked traffic, the hours wasted in the car daily, the heat, the stress, the expense, the distance, the effect on the kids of not seeing enough of their father ..... boy, were we f*cking stupid. It was a horrible time. There was a lot of anger and acting out. As a side note, the funding has since materialized up here at the desert workplace facility of course .... but not before our marriage almost fell apart. The spouse commutes on the freeway about 20 minutes one way now.
So ... big financial mistake, yes. Bigger personal mistake? Definitely. Our 2 bankruptcies and 3 foreclosures occurred here, which (the way I see it now) certainly reflects our distress at our situation. We spent everything and saved nothing. The job promotion was pointless. We gained nothing from it financially. We would spend weekends shopping at the big box stores and the malls, bringing home goodies to keep our spirits up. We needed distractions, one after the other. For me, that evolved into a hoarding crisis to fill the dissatisfaction that I constantly experienced in living here, of my life in general, and the deeply entrenched emotional issues that I had already brought into our relationship. As we all know, years later, I remain highly ambivalent about having to live here, which has turned into isolation and an unwillingness to get involved in this community. I hate it so much. We all hate it. These days, I refuse to spend any money here beyond food and essentials. I stay out of the malls and the stores and I have almost cleared the remnants of the hoard. I would
rather save my money to spend in a place in which I actually want to live!
Vehicles? That remains an on-going issue. True, we no longer have to drive new or fairly new cars on some long, pointless commute any more. We can get away with aging vehicles that only have to drive a few miles daily. However, we blew thousands of dollars over the past 2 decades in gas and having to buy new cars that could handle the hot, punishing drive in a dusty and dry desert climate (See 'The End of Suburbia'). Before anyone suggests that we should've moved out of here a long, long time ago, I should point out that the spouse works in a highly specialized field for big money. His job is uncommon. Once he took the job offer and left the beach, his position was filled immediately and there was no going back.
I left behind a good job at the beach too, entering into an environment that was literally dry of decent paying jobs. I went into business for myself, three times, and made good money each time but differing circumstances brought an end to each attempt at self employment. My three attempts at self employment are a different post for a different time.
The spouse made enough money to support the family but, in retrospect, we now know that it would've been better for us to have remained working our old jobs, pulling in that same amount of money, and staying in a neighborhood we loved. And ditching the cars!!
Another point that I'd like to make is that it gets expensive to keep moving a family around. I could never settle down in one place here and, as a result, we bought and sold houses every couple of years. Obviously, that is not a good use of income, spending money to fix houses up, spending money to get them sold.
As a result of not properly thinking through a job change and a regional move, of not considering how climate, distance, economics and surroundings would affect us and our family both personally and financially, we made a life altering mistake in moving here to the Mojave. Nothing will ever change that fact unless we win the lottery and can get out of here this afternoon.