A Single Gal’s Guide to Homebuying!
Home buying was a dream of mine for most of my young adulthood. I craved a space that was all my own, and no one was going to tell me I had to leave. I could make it my sanctuary from the harshness of the outside world. For the longest time, I accepted that it was not in the cards for me. I thought I simply could not make it work with the debt I was in and the fact that I had trouble staying in one place and my restlessness got the better of me and my bank account. I tried to believe that other people’s wants and desires of me were what I wanted, but I came back again and again to a home of my own in my fair city of Duluth.
Growing up, we lived in a tumultuous environment. My parents fought, and my father lived well outside his means and had a lot of trouble with money and debt. It’s a wonder where I got it! When my parents got divorced, we had to leave our home that I loved and move into a small duplex. Not to say that we didn’t make it as nice as we could, but I felt a significant loss of “home” and know that my longing for a home of my own stems from these early years.
My debt came to me in my early 20’s. I was working as a massage therapist and met a group of women who sold supplements and meal replacement shakes. I got stuck in the trap of thinking this was a good thing for my wellness business and thought I should be selling this product to fellow potential suckers like me who had dreams of making big bucks as a multi-level marketer. I promptly bought my inventory for a mere $4,000 using my credit card, believing that in no time I’d sell it all and be sitting on a nice little profit. Let me tell you; this did not happen for me. I tried my best for a few weeks only to realize how much I loathed myself for doing what I did and could not stand the sight of the product I was trying to sling. I ended up giving it away or literally throwing it in the trash. I easily slid the product under the rug, but the debt was not so easy to get out of sight.
For years, I avoided my credit card debt altogether. I moved around a lot, changing jobs and addresses but ultimately, of course, they always find you. Eventually, I had to face the fact that this debt was not going anywhere and had to be addressed, especially if I ever wanted to buy a house.
I began working with a credit counselor and financial advisor from Community Action Duluth (CAD), doing what I could to work on my credit. Eventually, with considerable help and guidance, I settled my credit card debt by paying one lump sum (less than the actual full debt) and getting it all in writing and finally putting that part of my life to rest. I can’t stress enough the amazing work these people at CAD do. Never did I feel embarrassed or shameful about my debt or my situation. It was quite the opposite. I felt empowered asking for help and making real progress towards my ultimate goal of home ownership.
I enrolled in the Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) program about two years ago. I began saving 40 dollars a month that would go into an account, where then it grew to 980. The program tripled my input. In that time, I also began looking for a full-time job that would allow me the income to be able to get a loan and afford a mortgage. My job at Harbor City International School came somewhat out of the blue, but it was the final piece in being able to afford a home, and I am forever grateful to my job and the folks that helped me get there.
Along the way, I have had a great partner by my side, who at times could be a bit discouraging but ultimately was my greatest supporter. We are both musicians, and he works full time at his craft. He’s what society calls “unconventional,” but he truly follows his passion to great lengths. I have, however, struggled with calling his dreams my own and often would find myself veering into the lane of unconventionalism and a freewheeling lifestyle. Before I bought our home, he literally wanted to move into a van and tour the country playing music. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. It’s quite romantic actually, but I knew that living in a van on the road was more frightening to me than buying a home. I said, “you are free to live in a van, but I’m going to buy a house, and you’re free to live in that too.” Needless to say, it’s been good for us.
It’s been a long ride to homeownership, but I knew that if I was going to do it, I had to do it on my own and I had to learn how to manage my money and what it means to live within our means. It’s a modest life for me, but not one that I would not trade for anything. I have a home of my own, that I can afford on my own, and is truly my sanctuary. I’m so grateful for this community that continues to ground me.
Interested in learning more about tackling debt with the help of Community Action Duluth? Resources available here: https://www.communityactionduluth.org/services-programs/
Interested in building a nest egg with support from FAIM? Resources can be found here: https://www.communityactionduluth.org/coaching/faim-matched-savings-account-and-coaching/
Sonja Bjordal is the lead singer of Feeding LeRoy,
Sonja Bjordal is the lead singer of Feeding LeRoy, a boot-stompin’, rompin’, feel-good, country music band. They can be heard playing around the Twin Ports and anywhere you stream music. Sonja is also a massage therapist, dog-lover, bandana enthusiast, thrift store shopper, expert at the worm, and a Special Education Paraprofessional at Harbor City School. Occasionally, Sonja teams up with Joella to play live music during vinyasa. We may be biased, but we personally feel this is a combination that rivals the greatest duos of all time, including Bonnie/Clyde, Harry/Sally, Laverne/Shirley, and dare we say it, even the great bromance that is Obama/Biden.
Clearly, LeRoy (namesake of the band) approves of his new backyard.