Outdoor Improvements

Back in 2017, I began dreaming about making some improvements to our back yard. Sections of our fence had blown over twice during thunderstorms, and while I had done my best to prop them back up and nail everything together, I really wanted to just replace it. The untreated lumber combined with too-long nails that stuck through every inch was all just terrible.

But the single quote I got for a new fence told me that I couldn’t afford it yet. Then, in 2018, Simon came along and we also needed to invest more into what I call “foundational” improvements. Foundational work is invisible but essential and included things like insulating our ducts, adding a vapor barrier to the crawl space, etc.

The summer of 2019, we learned that Simon (and probably all kids) loved to be outside. He wanted to play outside all the time. And while Simon wasn’t bothered by the desert wasteland that was our yard on summer afternoons, April and I were generally miserable out there. We wanted him to play outside a lot, but we didn’t actually want to be outside, which was a problem. So I took my dreams and started sketching out some ideas and doing a lot of research.

Uncertain how to fund everything that I wanted to do, I asked people on Reddit for advice during the summer of 2020. Simon was about to turn 2 years old and was now properly running around, and April increasingly wanted a patio roof so she could go out the back door when it was raining and not get wet. I also really liked the idea of being able to grill in the rain.

Reddit gave me the idea to refinance our house and take cash out of the equity. Thanks to pandemic weirdness, we were able to lower our interest rate at the same time our home value shot up, so we’ll actually pay our house off sooner and we got enough money from our equity to fund about 45% of the work that I wanted to have done. The rest of our Outdoor Improvement projects were funded by covid stimulus checks, holiday gifts, decreasing my 401k contribution for 5 months, credit card churning, and laser-focused re-prioritization using YNAB.

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