If you want to know your exact place in our social structure, you can get a good represetation by trying seriously to buy a house AND car. I wanted to move to California to increase my odds of getting a degree, but Eleanor refuses to live anywhere if we can't afford a house. We can't afford a house in California unless we live on the rez, which Eleanor isn't willing to do. And to put a nail in that coffin, my sister is interested in moving to Utah. So now we are looking at buying a new house in Utah.
I mentioned earlier that we were approved for $50,000 more than when we bought our current house but, after house hunting, we discovered that that amount will only buy us a house worse than the one we are living in now (which will be nice when we sell our house - it's a seller's market here). We came up with the idea to buy a BIG house and share it with my sister, which would require us to get a co-signer (these aren't just ideas, we've sat down with people and done credit checks and crunched all the numbers). But even with our BIGGER approval amount and the task of finding a house with six bedrooms or more, the pickings are mighty slim. Everytime we look seriously at buying a house, the ones we can afford look like a shabby pile of crap. We don't mind buying and improving piles of crap, but it just knocks you down a peg to know that that is ALL you can afford.
We can afford a nice house out in Saratoga Springs, "city-big" housing development quite-a-ways south and on the west-side of Utah Lake (formerly known as "Provo's Toilet" (they've cleaned it up). The odds are good that we might end up there. It's scenic with the lake and mountains and there is enough open space we could probably get our kids some dirt-bikes or a mini-dunebuggy and let them tear up the sagebrush before they build more houses on it.
While we were house hunting we started having some problems with the frontend of our Jeep. It was late in the day so I took it to Midas. They said the major problem was the Universal Joints but that some bearings were also going out, requiring the replacement of an entire hub (the thing the tire bolts to). They gave us an estimate of $1000. I told them I wasn't willing to spend that much money fixing it and we started hitting the car dealerships. If we are going to live in Saratoga Springs a better commuter car would be needed anyway. We wanted to buy a used-car so the new loan would not have to great an impact on our house-buying-ability. After two days of searching, the best we could find was a 1998 Jetta with 80K miles for $5000. (My wife had a Jetta before and I got used to driving it. The suspension is tighter and the engine has more pep than the Civic we used to have.) But before we bought it I took our Jeep to some REAL mechanics who said that it was the U-joints. I asked, "Did you see any problem with the bearings?" They said, "No." I told them the other mechanics had said they were about to go out. They went to the garage and checked them again. They said the bearings looked fine. Damn Midas! So I paid the $300 for U-joints and the Jeep is going strong.
I'm just saying that, unless you're raking in the cash, it paints a clear and horrible picture of your place when you get serious about buying a car AND a house. "I can only afford this wobbly shack? I can only afford this car with the busted turn signal?" Try it if you dare.
This might be as good a place as any to mention that I interviewed for that "chip" job yesterday and they hired me on the spot. They were out of forklift jobs so my new duties will be putting bags of chips in little cardboard boxes: two bags of this, two bags of that, box is full, get a new box, two bags of this...etc. It's a George Jetson job but it pays $2 more per hour than the furniture job and there is probably little risk of throwing out my back moving Cheetos around. The boss was excited, he took me out and introduced me to his whole team and showed me exactly what I would be doing. I called my other job, called out sick for my daughter's birthday and gave them my two weeks notice.
And I will also throw in: Two nights ago, my main boss at the furniture store was arrested for Solicitation of a Minor on the internet. Not exactly the kind of "star" you want to hitch your wagon to.