There are times when it seems practical and economical to pool your resources and live together, share bank accounts and investments, delegate who works and who stays at home, sell off excess furniture, put your car in their name for tax purposes, pay off their loans first, etc. I was once a starry-eyed 17 year old. And so I acquired STDs: sexually transmitted debts.
It took me some time to extricate myself (whilst solo parenting with little paid work). More than once. Since then, it has generally been my experience that I can’t rely on a partner to provide a secure base for my child to grow up in (although I have had wonderful and supportive partners at times). That’s ok. I have always identified with The Little Red Hen. I’ll do it myself.
Women, particularly, tend to spend more years working part time or in home duties, which means they accrue less superannuation and are less able to apply for large loans compared to a partner in a full time job. Even when they work full time, they often earn less money than men doing the same work, or work in lower-paid professions. So we shackle our financial wellbeing to our partners. Maintaining independent assets can even be seen as an insult to a long-term relationship.
This can have devastating consequences when the relationship ends or the partner dies. How would you cope if you were suddenly the sole income earner in your household? When you have dependent children, they are vulnerable along with you. You just don’t know what is around the corner. On the other hand, money can be the hurdle that keeps you tied to a relationship that is slowly killing you.
It’s possible to cultivate an intimate relationship that allows for both connection and separateness. Including your finances. Seek a partner who is not threatened by your strong sense of self. Take a step towards financial independence. A man is not a plan.
This might mean owning assets in your name. It might mean separate bank accounts, even if you’ve been married for fifty years. It might mean negotiating for both partners to have spending money, even the stay at home parent. Anita Bell in ‘Your Money: Starting Out and Starting Over‘ calls this the ‘sanity allowance’ – it is to be spent without the other partner questioning or criticising. It might mean studying or training to gain new skills. Only you know what is right for you.
For me, it meant investigating buying my own home. I want to my place of residence to be independent from my sexual relationship. If I continue my current relationship when my partner returns in two years and we choose to live together again, I can rent my town house out. Or we can we visit each other’s houses. My own bedroom with no clothes hung on the floor – the idea does have merit!
Paradoxically, although I wasn’t consciously saving for a house deposit, I suddenly have enough cash and assets to look viable to a bank. Living here for eight months rent-free, and house-sitting before that, and tent-dwelling before that has kept my cost of living low enough to build up savings even on a part-time income. I also have shares, which I taught myself how to manage from books like ‘Your Money‘ by Anita Bell. She’s a very down to earth voice in finance. I’m planning to use the information in ‘Your Mortgage‘ to pay my house off quickly.
Ethan Hughes talks about how the third principle of permaculture, ‘fair share’ used to be called ‘limits create abundance’. How when we pare back to necessities and seek low-technology, local solutions, instead of lack we find abundance because money and energy is freed up to flow to what is important. If I had rented for the last two years like a ‘normal’ person, I might not have the option of buying now. My journey of living in various permutations of community was also personally valuable to me, and it has greatly informed the way I want to set up my new home.
So, with some trepidation regarding the enormity of financial commitment and introspection about whether locking myself into systems of insurances, mortgage, government money and employment aligns with my integrity, I chose to go house shopping. Buying a house involves a whole lot of paperwork and institutions; and it also opens up some pretty exciting options. My conclusion on the systems alliance was that even though I am engaging with institutions that are based on mistrust and separation, overall it puts me in a position to contribute to the community and increase connection and trust in the world.
Charles Eisenstein has written some deeply paradigm-shifting books about economics and the gift economy. I’m working my way through several of them. He describes nonmonetary circulation of gifts, where each person gives their contribution to the world both without expectation of direct return and also with trust that when they are in need, they will receive in turn. He speaks about negative interest, and a way of living ‘in the gift’ that is beyond even barter, timeshare, local currency or exchange. Pretty radical stuff, and it also makes a deep kind of sense to me.
From ‘Sacred Economics‘:
‘Put succinctly, the essential need that goes unmet today, the fundamental need that takes a thousand forms, is the need for the sacred – the experience of uniqueness and connectedness… When I use the word spiritual, I am not contradistinguishing it from the material. I have little patience with any philosophy or religion that seeks to transcend the material realm. Instead, the separation of the spiritual from the material is instrumental in our heinous treatment of the material world. Sacred economics treats the world as more sacred, not less. It is more materialistic than our current culture – materialistic in the sense of deeply and attentively loving our world. So when I speak of meeting our spiritual needs, it is not to keep cranking out the cheap, generic, planet-killing stuff while we meditate, pray and prattle on about angels, spirit and God. It is to treat relationship, circulation, and material life itself as sacred. Because they are.’ Charles Eisenstein
I like how he brings the sacred into the everyday, and looks at systems with such a wide lens.
This is a snapshot of my research. I looked at 15 houses over a couple of months, as well as more online. As well as affordability, the proximity to my workplace and a school bus stop were top priorities. In the end, it came down to two options around the corner from each other. One was a neat little two bedroom brick duplex with a decent size backyard. This would have served me and my son well – no frills, but big enough for us as well as cheap and a useful location. The other was a four bedroom fibro house on a large block just around the way, for only a little higher cost. The large backyard was flat and grassy, there was a wood fire place and a strange little bath, and old scented roses in the garden.
I bought the big house for $260 000. Four bedrooms gives me options to host travellers, family or rent rooms out, and there’s enough space and sunlight for a tiny farm in the backyard! My pot plant collection is swelling in anticipation. The space is much more flexible, and independent from other dwellings. We can expand and grow in this house.
Right now, it works out cheaper for me to buy than to rent. So I may as well embark on a new adventure, and see where it takes me! I’m pretty excited about doing less driving every day! I’m also curious about how I can run a household as a spiritual space that honours place and history, and supports its inhabitants and wider community. It ties in with all my ideas of local food, zero waste, permaculture, NVC, frugality and sustainability. The name ‘Healing House of Harmony’ came to me and I can’t shake it. Below is one of the scented roses in my new garden, blooming in early winter.
It just so happens that my partner’s daughter needs a new place to live. So she’s moving in too. We’ve been sparking off ideas for house rules, wild furnishings, community connections, yarn bombing and other projects. She gets this whole sacred thing.
My potted roses can’t wait to get their roots in the soil.