It’s true, I live in the ghetto of Farmington. There is nearly four hundred mobile homes in this low-class community I like to call my home. Down here in the “ghetto” we all have one thing in common – we don’t have a lot of money to make it from one week/month to the next. There are many different reasons we are poverty stricken. Some of our life situations have made it hard to work; some are lazy and refuse to work. Some are drug addicts and/or alcoholics and spend all their hard earned money to stay intoxicated; some just can’t budget their money. I know families that heat their homes with electric space heaters because they can not afford to fill their fuel tanks. I know families that get food stamps and spend them all on soda and junk food within a few days of getting them and I know families that gamble and drink everything they don’t have. As I look around me, I realize I have nothing to complain about. Yes, I am poor, but I have a warm home, good food, nice furnishings, and no need for anything. Everything I have is paid for free and clear of debt, for I only buy when I have cash in hand, and I never plan my next purchase.
Why? Because I am cheap, I love making money and hate to spend it. My fiancé, Steve, he doesn’t mind. He is cheaper than me. In fact, I have to be the one to pay the bills because if it was up to him he wouldn’t even do that so we make a good team.
* * *
It was mid summer of 2011 when Steve, and I were out for a walk and happen to pass by a double wide with a for sale sign in the yard. My curiosity was stricken as I said “I wonder how much they want for that home.” When I got home I called to asked about the home. Dale, the owner of the park, told me it had been foreclosed on and needed a good bit of work before it could be sold. I wrote the house off thinking we would not be able to afford it.
For the next couple of days Steve nagged on me about that house. “Why have we not went and looked at it? It does not hurt to look.”
Finally I called Dale back looking for more details. “How old is the house? What does it need? What is the purchasing price, if he was to sell it as is?”
Dale simply responded by saying, “The house is sixteen years old. Why don’t you take a walk down there and I will get someone to let you in.”
Upon entering the house we quickly noticed it was a structure of neglect. Every carpet was missing throughout the house. The stains on the cheap press board sub-floors showed evidence that they also had animals that were neglected. As you walked through the house you noticed a few spots on the ceiling that had water damage from a roof that needed to be replaced. The smaller two bedrooms and bathroom looked as though the children were set loose with lime green, and dark blue paint. In the master bedroom a water bed that was never drained and removed appeared to have garbage bags of junk all around it. In the kitchen we noticed papers, and junk peeking out from under the stove and refrigerator. However, despite of all the damage it was a quality home compared to most mobile homes. All the trim and cupboards were made with real wood instead of the typical press board you would find in most mobile homes like this one.
As we left the home that day Steve said, “I want this house.”
I took what he said into stride and went on walking home. A few houses down Steve walked in front of me and turned around so he was facing me. “Liz, I have something I need to tell you.”
I stopped dead in my tracks as I responded. “What’s that?”
“We have money, I have been stashing it for over a year.”
I wasn’t completely surprised at this because I knew he had a habit of stashing small amounts of money. “How much money do we have?” I asked.
“I don’t know he said I have not counted it in a long time, but probably enough for a good sized down payment.”
When we got back home Steve went straight for his many stash holes, and I went to check the bank account. Upon entering the room I saw piles of bills ranging from ones to hundreds. I could not believe it we had nearly four thousand dollars more than I had thought.
I immediately picked up the phone and called Dale back. I wanted to know how much for the home as is. Dale responded as if he was completely unprepared for the question but did give us a six thousand dollar figure. Between the two of us we had the money and we bought the home.
* * *
I started making phone calls to contractors for the roof repairs. I got estimates ranging from thirty-five hundred dollars all the way up to five-thousand dollars and none of them were going to work with me to cut cost. I had to find a way to get this roof done and cut cost too, then I finally realized I needed to stop looking at the whole picture and break it apart one step at a time.
“How could I get the supplies?” I asked myself.
I got it! I would turn to my old trusty friend Craigslist. I could post an ad and ask people to sell me shingles. The ad went something like this:
“I purchased a house not to long ago and I may have bitten off more than I can chew. The house needs a new roof. The house also needs new sub-floors and flooring throughout. However, there is no point of even thinking about that til I get the roof fixed.
My fiancé has epilepsy, in his case he has up to six seizures per day and is unable to work. This also puts me in a position where I can’t work as much as I would like, for he has to be supervised. I do work every opportunity I get, and when I do I make good money.
I am looking for ways to cut cost on getting this roof re-shingled. So I was hoping someone out there would have a lot of shingles setting around and would like to sell them. I would not be placing this ad if I wanted to pay a huge amount of money for them, therefore, I am looking for someone who needs to get them out of their way and they will be happy to make a small amount of money as well. We will do all the hauling and moving of the shingles.
Please do not call me if you have one or two bundles or different styles. I am looking to get a quality roof at a very cheap price. I am willing to pay five dollars per bundle of shingles. Please call Liz at 555-0123.”
The phone started ringing, we turned down many people who called before even going to take a look. The terms had to be perfect and people were calling us with ridiculous propositions. The phone rang for three days straight. I was getting ready to take the ad down when that magic call came in.
“Hello my name is Matt, I am responding to your ad on craigslist about the shingles.”
Being very discouraged I simply said, “Yes.”
“My father was a contractor and he recently died. I inherited this house and I need to get it cleaned out and the basement is full of shingles. They are all real nice black three tab singles, if you will take them off my hands you can have them.”
“O um wow really!? When would be a good time to come look at them? I will have a clan to help me load them in the truck.
“I will be here all day tomorrow. Is there a good time for you?”
“Yes sir, I can be there at 10 am if that is a good time for you. Thank you so much, this is a tremendous help.”
We exchanged information and I showed up there right on time the next morning. The shingles were everything the man said and there was enough to cover my roof with shingles left over. Upon leaving it turned my stomach to offer the guy one hundred dollars for something he had already given me, but I felt it was the right thing to do. He refused and I was astounded by what had just happened.
By this time we were well into the fall, so I had to put the roof off til spring. However, that was perfect for me. If I could find a contractor right at the beginning of spring when they were still desperate for work then maybe I could get a better price. I knew of one contractor that worked a full-time job and did the contracting on the side. He had nearly thirty years experience and I had known him for years so I knew the job would get done right. So I gave him a call as soon as we had our first nice weekend.
“Hello, Nick this is Liz.”
“Yeah, whats up?”
“Well I need to get a roof put on my house. I have all the shingles, cash in hand, and I need to get this done asap. Can you lay a roof on my house for five hundred dollars? If so what else will I need besides the shingles.”
“Yes, I can lay it for that, but I will need a helper. It is a lot of work to lug, and lay shingles all day.”
“Oh ok is there any special skills your helper will need or can I hire you one of the local boys here in the park that could use some extra money and still save me some.”
“No no that is fine. Just a helper no special skills.”
“Ok come see me and we will work this out.”
Nick came by the next day after work and gave me a list of other things I would need. I ground my teeth as I paid the full price for those supply’s but it was under three hundred dollars. I found an eighteen year old boy, right here in the park, he just graduated and had a child with no job. I offered him one hundred dollars for a hard days work. The following weekend I had a nice new roof on my house, and it cost me less than one thousand dollars.
* * *
The smaller bathroom was dark blue and the paint was irresponsibly plastered everywhere. Behind the toilet was unpainted and the floor was covered with splatter. I hated that there was a shower and no cupboard space for towels and supplies. Although the bathroom did not need a sub-floor, the disposal of the old floor in the rest of the house was going to add up extensively. I did not tear up old floors I just layered over them, so I would need to lay it anyways.
Again I posted an ad on Craigslist with a list of all the supplies I would need and waited. I was not as impressed this time, but I did get a call.
“Hello my name is Sally. Are you looking for supplies to repair your bathroom?”
“Yes I am.”
“Well I have a couple of things. I have a piece of sub-flooring it is not chip board it is actually sub-floor and it is new. Also I have a toilet. I bought it a couple of years ago and when we brought it home we dropped the top to the tank. It is still whole but has a little chip in it. My husband refused to put it in and I have not been able to get rid of it. Will you take it? If you take the toilet I will give you the sub-floor as well.”
“Oh well yeah, I might, the chip will not cause any kind of leakage or problems will it?”
“No, I don’t think so it is only the cover for the tank.”
“Well I will come look.”
Again we traded information and I went to see her. Indeed the toilet was very usable. Although the chip was small it was also unsightly. I could still cover it and make it look great.
I still needed to cover the walls and ceiling. I also needed a new bathroom cupboard.
So with three hundred dollars in my pocket I went to Lowe’s. I was astonished when I realized a good quality cabinet was going to cost me every penny of that three hundred dollars. I don’t even want to discuss the cost of the faucet. So I went to see my friend Chris. Chris is married and has seven children so he is constantly building onto his single wide trailer to make more room for them. Chris is a lot like me for he pays -nothing he does not have to pay for. I wanted some tips on where he got his supplies.
Chris told me to show up at Lowe’s when they open they always have two dollar drywall that the corner is broke or something small you can cut off and still use it. He also told me to check out the Restore in Canandaigua, New York. Ironically he asked me if I could use a solid oak water bed frame. I looked at the frame and all my problems were starting to come together. It was nice wood and we could use it to build the cupboard in our bathroom if we built a corner cupboard it would be enough wood.
We went to the Restore and I could not believe what I was finding. A beautiful ceramic quality sink with a lovely brass faucet still attached and in wonderful shape was only fifteen dollars. I got ten sheets of two dollar drywall from Lowe’s. Then someone contacted me through my Just Scrap It Metal & Junk Clean Up Facebook page to come pick up some paint and trim boards. The paint was a little unconventionally dark purple, but I fell in love with the color. I mixed a little in some white paint so I could have two tones to work with and a better match for the white trim that had also been given to me.
At the end of the project we decided to take the shower out and build shelving units, for I was unwilling to pay three hundred dollars for a cheap shower stall. The shelving units is where I put my money for it cost me nearly one hundred dollars for wood; however, the rest of the room was less than fifty dollars. So in the end I thought one hundred and fifty dollars was great, and you still could not beat the quality. The cupboards were made entirely of solid wood. Even the best quality cupboard at Lowe’s had a certain amount of cheap chip board.
* * *
With a large family of six and a very small income coming up with a way to fulfill our needs without the need for money has become my art. Each time I run a ad on Craigslist, Just Scrap it, or one of the many online list I use they result in a mixture of different responses. Many people will contact me with items they have that they need to get rid of. And many times they will give them to me. However, I get that occasional email from someone that will call me trash. I boost my own confidence by telling myself, either they have never experienced the rough life or they are jealous that I have figured it out. I never respond to one of these emails simply because I am proud that I am high class trailer trash.