Friday, October 1, 2010

Old Fashioned Mortgage Burning

Or, for you younger folks, I just paid off my mortgage.

Back in the day, when folks bought a home, they generally stayed put right there in that very neighborhood, where they had babies and raised their kids all the way through high school and college.  That's the way it was in the neighborhood where I grew up. And then, one day, hopefully not too long after that, they finally made that last payment on the mortgage.

They would invite their closest friends over and have a party to celebrate this huge milestone and at some point, head to the backyard where they would ignite the deed of trust mortgage note and let it burn to ash. I guess in a way it was also symbolic of moving from one stage of life and marriage, and into another - retirement. A time where you could stop the stressful 9 to 5 grind, be done with raising babies and high demand housework, spend more alone time together, become grandparents, relax, garden, do more charity and volunteer work, take up old hobbies, start new ones, take your time with household duties, watch a lot of tv, stay up late and even sleep in if you choose.  And maybe even start a blog.

You don't hear too much about a mortgage burning these days. There are probably a number of reasons for that, but namely that people stay in debt even up into their 60s. Over their careers, they move around a lot, change jobs, change states, heck sometimes they completely change careers to go where the money is.  They buy houses, sell houses, and buy newer, and often bigger houses, sometimes houses that they truly can't really afford. They get credit lines on their homes to finance other things and so they can buy new stuff and they stay in constant debt. Sometimes, like now with the current housing crisis and predator lending, they end up owing more than their home is even worth.

I moved into this house in the summer of 1994.  I didn't choose the house or area, but it became mine with the divorce property settlement a few years later when my then husband decided to have a mid-life crisis where he needed to be single. Yes. I have been married a couple of times. Don't judge.

When I moved in, this was a simple, modest, ranch style home, built in the late 80s, and only about 1300 square feet, in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood of mostly military families or older folks. While it is off the beaten track outside of city limits in the county, instead of being located in a more northern area it was right on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with a little known beach and beautiful fishing pier right around the corner, a boat launch, a golf course, and only minutes from all the city conveniences. The area is full of trees and most of those oaks - something that you don't see much of in suburban neighborhoods anymore since developers tend to plow everything under when they start clearing lots to sell.  When I first moved here, it was a nice, quiet and peaceful neighborhood, and I grew to love it.

The neighborhood has changed a bit, mostly since Hurricane Katrina really - but that's a whole 'nother story - and there have been times where I have alternately thanked God that I was lucky enough to have a roof over my head, while cursing this house for being too tight, too small, too compact and badly designed, I still stayed here. I didn't upgrade. I didn't move into something bigger or newer. I paid my mortgage on time. I paid off my other debt so that I could pay more toward my mortgage. And today I paid it off.

And you know what? Yes, there have been times where I did get a tinge of resentment that there are some (not all) folks out there who did get the bigger, newer houses, many who really couldn't afford them, but were able to get the loans anyway due to bad banking practices. And I have at times felt a little envy that they had the space I didn't, and the big chef's kitchens and walk in pantries and nice big master bedrooms and baths I longed for. But, I also realize many of them are now going to work stressed out, and living on the very edge of losing their homes and praying for a last resort government bailout.  And while there may not be a big party here celebrating, I gotta say, making that final payment sure felt pretty good. It may not be a mansion, but it's home. And now, it's mine.



  1. Contratulation Miss Mary & Cajun...this is a wonderful thing to be sure...FREE & CLEAR.....I have also like you "wished" for more. We bought this soon after our son was born 15 years ago..and I have wanted to move so many times..couldn't swing hubby into yet $ $ $ the same old story. And now..we still have a roof over our
    head (with unemployment) we are sacrificing more than ever before to keep the place I thought to small to this and that. It isn't ours yet. But I am learning to be
    grateful for this moment in time..becuause there is no future
    and no past only right now. Very
    enlightening post. While everybody else was living high off the hog and buying bigger and upgrading we were still struggling. I always told my husband, we won't have as big a fall as they will when this all hits the fan.Sure enough..we are still struggling but we have retained until this moment our little bungalow...It is all good
    in the neighborhood.

  2. Exactly Faith! When Katrina blew away my job, before this whole national unemployment and economic mess and I couldn't find work then much less after all that, no way would we have been able to afford a bigger mortgage. We surely would have lost our home, but by the Grace of God and our good sense to be happy with what we had, we made it through that challenge. God sure knows what He is doing.

  3. Congrats Mary. we only have a few more years too. Being content isn't always easy. we too have a small home. I have kitchen envy baaad.

    We've been blessed that I can make the house payment & bills with my income since Hubby tends to get layed off quite a bit (construction). No biggie, we just adjust and move forward. You get back out of life what you put into it. You've given us so much and now you can reap a partial reward. You can expect more to come. I love your blogs and hope you keep on blogging forever.

    Celebrate and enjoy.

  4. Thanks so much Cyndy! You are so right - sometimes it isn't easy to be content, especially when you see others who had all the goodies to enjoy and now need and are seeking help to get out from being upside down. I have that kitchen envy no doubt there, but I have bathroom envy too!! I love taking soaks in the tub and would love one of those HUGE garden jacuzzi tubs and a bathroom that's as big as my master bedroom is now! Ain't happenin...

  5. Hi Mary!

    I am so happy for you! Whenever Dave and I pay off a bill (our student loans, a car...) we have a big dinner and celebrate. What an awesome feeling!

    Now we still have some years on our mortgage but I hold true to living in our means. My hubby and kids can hear me no matter where we are in the house bc of the size. And that is okay with me! Not to mention small house means less to clean!

    Happy Day!

    PS. I made the apple cake the other day - and wonderful! The whiskey sauce was so very good!

  6. Hey Tracie! I was thinking about doing the same thing. I cook so much that we rarely eat out, but I drug The Cajun out on a road trip to shop recently and we stopped at Longhorn for a late lunch/early dinner and man, it was soooo good I am ready to go back. We had their lobster and shrimp appetizer - YUM, The Cajun had a steak, and I had the steak sandwich, DELISH, and all that to say I am so ready to go back and have a big ole steak!!! Seems a perfect way to celebrate to me.

    My house is like that too. I would have loved to have had a 3000 square foot house because I like space and can get a bit claustrophobic, but I'm really happy that we didn't buy into that. One gal I used to work with did that and then was constantly stressed about their note because she knew it would literally take both incomes for them to make it. She carried that stress with her and you could see it, especially when our company went through a few different acquisitions and mergers where our jobs were in jeopardy. That is such enslavement, and I'm glad now that I didn't do that to myself.

    So glad you enjoyed the apple cake and yeah, I like the addition of the whiskey sauce myself! I'm sure Mama would approve. ;)

  7. I'm so proud to say I actually know someone who did this! Congrats to you! I wish we all could do the same! I remember that my grandparents did, but have not known anyone since that has.

  8. Congratulations Mary. It's a wonderful feeling to not have a mortgage. We are totally debt free,no mortgage or credit card debt.
    My house is not what I would like also, but it's ours! And, since we're both retired now,(me not by choice. Lost my job, too.) we can manage on a reduced income. It's a shame more people don't live within their incomes. It's a good feeling not to have that mortgage hanging over you. So glad for you.

  9. Aw, Tammy! So glad to be the one :) but I also know that you are right. Doesn't happen too much anymore.

    Thanks Patricia and yay for you as well! ::highfive:: You are absolutely right. It is a great feeling. I certainly hope we don't ever have to use the equity in our house for anything - it is nice to be able to know that you are debt free. I do still use a credit card but it is to accumulate the points for cash back and paid off each month. I have been there and done that with the credit card debt and never again.

  10. Yay! Congratulations! In this day and age this is a rare accomplishment. Very proud of and happy for you!

  11. Congratulations Mary,it's no small feat in this life to pay anything off but you did it and you should be darn proud of that. I'm separated from my second husband now and will get divorced so no judging here!! Men and they're mid life crisis....I wish I could use that as an excuse , all I get are hot flashes! LOL!!

  12. Oh, congratulations, what an awesome accomplishment! I don't know if my husband and I will be able to do this but I am surely happy for someone who can. We've lived in ours for 20 years and our children are now over 21, but due to some obstacles we had to refinance about 7 years ago. But, we are blessed to be able to pay our note and "keep on keeping on." Now, you & the Cajun treat yourselves to a splurge vacation!

  13. Good job, Mary!! We jsut recently passed on taking a trip over the Thanksgiving Holiday--we have 2 going off to college soon--and my mother-in-law said, "you are being frugal" to which I responded, "frugal I am NOT, but I am fiscally responsible, and know that we have bigger things to pay for (2 colleges) in the nesar future. So good for you for being fiscally responsible over the years there is a lot to be said for that in this day and age



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