One of the most challenging aspects of our new build has been managing the budget.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been managing money for a long time, and I learned its value very young. 

I grew up in a house where finances were private, an adult arena. I didn’t know about mortgages or hydro bills; it was considered vulgar to talk about money, especially in front of the children. My parents were raised working class, so as a result, I was working for my allowance at an early age, babysitting for airfares by the time I was 13 and by 17, I was paying my own way through college with three part time jobs. Married at 20, I have been keeping track of the dollars and the debts ever since.  

So, when it came time to talk house budget, I felt prepared.  It’s more money than I’ve ever seen and I have a healthy respect for those big numbers. I have a beautiful excel spreadsheet that I now consider an intimate part of my life where weekly, I move the numbers around; creative with the cash. While at times, it’s daunting, luckily, I am a realist, so I keep track of every single expense and am generous in my estimates.  I would rather find money than find a mistake.     

Holding the ‘purse strings’ as my mother referred to them, has been an exercise in deepening my inquiry into what we need vs what we want.  We’ve had to make hard choices about what matters most, what has the largest impact, and what will outlive us. We are building for the future knowing the house will be standing much longer than we will. We recognize that we are merely stewards of this place and that others will someday lay their heads here; we owe it to our children’s children to make the best financial decisions now.  Lucky for us, the views are priceless.  

As we ask the hard questions, we revisit our intentions, knowing that what we compromise on now, will show up later on.  Our choices need to stand the test of time.  And, because we are guided by the figures and not our fantasies, we are steadfast in our understanding that if we don’t see it on the sheet, we don’t buy it off the shelf.  We remind ourselves often that it’s a luxury to build, and that humbling tempers our desire to add pretty when what we need is practical. 

Now, I’m not saying that we won’t go over budget, as many more seasoned than us have told us, it’s inevitable.  Something unforeseen always pops up and already, still in the earliest stages, we see that in our project. But we know what our priorities are; rain water over bath water, compost over flush, form and function over frivolous. Playing the long game feels prudent to us as we heed the teaching of Nelson Henderson and “plant trees under whose shade we don’t expect to sit.