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How to Save on Housing for the Poly Family

A poly family presents a housing problem for the modern American.

(Since I don't know anything about other countries, I can't really write anything with any authority on the subject. However, do email me if you are living in a group in another country with your ideas and suggestions for living poly in that country. I'd be thrilled to put it on the site and give you credit for it).

Back to our muttons.... A poly family presents a housing problem for the modern American. Homes are built with the Mommy, Daddy and 1.7 children paradigm in mind. Given this, building a house would be ideal. But I don't think any sane poly family just starting out is going to go to the expense and commitment of building a house made for a poly family unless they've tested the waters a bit to see if it will work out.

So, you've got two basic choices -- buy or rent.

My own thought is that if you are going to buy, it might be best to put the house in the name of a person who will be able to afford the payments if things go south. I know that sounds as if you're planning for defeat. However, the cold facts are that 50% of monogamous marriages with cultural sanction and strong social taboos to back them still fail. The poly marriage is embarking on a venture with much worse odds. So don't be stupid.

Buying a home is cheaper in many ways. The tax savings on mortgage interest is substantial. Here is a good article about how it works. If you buy smart and keep the place up well, and are flexible about when you would move or sell, you can make a lot of money on a house. It can also be rental property once you actually build your Ideal Poly Home. If you're handy with a hammer or home improvement tools, buying a fixer-upper is a nice way to pick up some extra cash. Other than that, don't fall in love with a house. You absolutely must be prepared to walk away from a baragin you do not like and cannot afford. You must have a budget so that you know how much you can afford to spend on housing. Do not bend on this. At all. Ever. That way is the path to the Dark Side. Check for what the property is assessed at and when the last assessment was. You can call the locality's property tax office for this and they will just give it to you, no questions asked. There will be a small difference in the assessment price and the asking price, but it is not unknown for a private seller to try to make the property out to be many, many thousands of dollars more valuable than it actually is. We had this happen. We started looking for a house, fell in love with it, thinking we were looking at a rental. Turns out the fellow actually wanted to sell the place rather than rent. All fine and dandy. We did think we wanted to buy. However, the assessment on the place was about $54,000 less than the asking price. I promptly asked the man if he thought I had just fallen off the turnip wagon. We didn't get the house and were quite disappointed. But we did force ourselves to walk away even though we could get financing on the place. I understand he did find another sucker. Don't you be a sucker.

But, maybe you don't consider buying a good option. We didn't buy. We found we had to move more quickly than a house could be built and could not stay in our old place past the end of the lease, so we moved into a rented house. The biggest advantage of renting is flexibility. We were able to find a landlord that was willing to put the names of all adults on the lease, which protects both us and him from any misunderstandings or mixups. I do recommend this rather than a sublease if you can work it out. A more in depth article about finding a rental place is here . Do comparison shop. Rental housing depends very much on the market. We were in a situation where we had to look for rental homes when it was a sellers market and we were not in much of a bargaining position. Unfortunately, people rarely rent larger homes, so when you're looking in the four-bedroom range and up, you're going to be looking at some problems. Our best friend, Nolo Press, has an article about Landlord/Tenant Rights . Know it. Live it. Make it your own.

But, whether you rent or buy, you need to take several things into account before getting housing. Since I've lumped all utilities in with the rent, lets talk utilities first.

  • Water

  • You can do the obvious stuff -- make sure faucets don't leak, put a brick in the tank of your toilets, make sure you shut off the water while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers (we're assuming that showers aren't recreational here. I know that moving warm water is very, very soothing, but if you're consistently taking 1/2 hour showers, consider investing in a hot tub in which you only immerse a clean body and don't change the water every single use.), water your lawn by hand instead of using a sprinkler, make sure you only run a dishwasher or a washing machine on a full load, but don't overfill the washing machine. That wears it out faster and costs more money, too. Basically, become conscious of exactly how much water is needed for a job and don't use any more than that. Toilets that continue to run and leaky faucets are the worst offenders here. Most of the time you're dealing with no more than a $5 job for something that's costing you $80 a year in water.

  • Electricity

  • Again, you've got the obvious -- turn off stuff you don't use. You do not need to light an empty room, guys. Even if you leave your computer on all night, turn off the monitor. It's the single largest power eater in the system, besides the printer. Make sure the house is well-insulated. Very light clothing in the summer and sweaters in the winter make extreme climate control less necessary. Make sure the gasket on the fridge is working properly. (Close a dollar bill in the door of the fridge. If it can be removed easily, you need a new gasket). If your water heater is electric, make sure it's no hotter than 120 o . Close blinds in the summer to lower air conditioning costs. Don't let the kids leave the door open when using climate control. Three or four comforters are cheaper and safer than an electric blanket. Clean our the lint filter in your dryer each time you use it. Better yet, use a clothesline in nice weather and take advantage of the fact that God's own air and sunshine are still free. Wash clothes in cold water. Turning off things not in use is the biggest money-saver, here.

  • Gas

  • If you're using gas for heating, cooking, heating water, or a dryer, anything from the electricity hints work very well. Turn off the pilot light in the heater in the summertime. Again, turn off anything that is not in use. In my area, natural gas is much, much cheaper than electricity. We have gas heat, water heater and stove. I intend very much to have these amenities when we build -- even if it means propane tanks.

  • Phone

  • Do your homework. Often there isn't much choice for local service. If there is, comparison shop. Go here for rate comparisons. Be smart about long distance. Yes, it's getting cheaper and that's all fine and dandy, but poly people are just notorious for getting into LDRs (Long Distance Relationships) and running up the phone bill. I sometimes wonder if there won't come some MCI Polyamory Calling plan just for us. Until then, use email and net phone where possible. Call at off peak hours. Use calling plans that actually save you money and read the fine print.

  • Cable

  • If you can avoid getting cable, don't get it. Just don't. Most of the time, cable companies have a local monopoly, so you're screwed for rate shopping. However, you can minimize costs. Use discretion when choosing pay-per-view. It's comparable to renting a movie and you won't have to pay any extra when you forget to return it. However, it's easier than renting a movie. Set limits for yourself. Don't pay for all those premium channels. How often do you flip through 100 channels and decide that there's nothing on TV? Renting the movies you want to see might very well be cheaper -- depending on your tastes. The important thing is to make sure you track your spending and know your spending patterns.

The basic gist of this is to make sure you're turning off things you don't use, limiting your use of things to what you actually need and showing some self-restraint when it comes to the luxuries.

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