Angella Dykstra: She Makes Cents


Take "Owning a Cottage" from Pipe Dream to Reality

Purchase a cabin or a cottage. Potato, pahtahto.

Cabin life, buying a cottage

My husband and I do not "come from money." There are no trust funds, no inheritance awaiting us, and nobody to bail us out if we make unwise decisions. We both work hard -- always have -- and have been working since we were kids. (Paper route fist bump.) We do our best to be wise with our finances. We budget, we live within our means, we save for our kids' education, and we save for our retirement.

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We also bought a log cabin at our local ski hill last year.

We both have moderate incomes (I'm a self-employed C.A., he's a Pastor), but we took up skiing as a family a few years ago and having a cabin up here at the ski hill (I'm typing this while sitting at the kitchen table at our cabin) was something we wanted to investigate. We spend a lot of time outdoors as a family and having a home away from home was appealing. I grew up camping, but my old lady bones prefer cabin-ing to camping. Since buying the cabin, we come up here all year long. It's a place to walk and to hike and to mountain bike, as well as a place to sit and to watch movies and to read books. When it's snow season, we ski and snow shoe instead of hiking and mountain biking, but you get the idea. We love it here.

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But how do we afford it? Let me tell you how it all came to be:

1. Get a good Realtor. We all know that Realtors make their money from the commission on sales, and there are those who want to manipulate the situation to make the most money for them, regardless of what it costs you. Our Realtors are also our good friends, who showed us the cabin and told us of the reasons we may not want to buy. (They talk themselves out of sales all of the time, because they are honest to a fault.) Find an honest Realtor.

2. Rent it out. Our cabin is at a ski hill which hosts skiing and snowboarding competitions, as well as hockey tournaments. We rent it out to families and ski teams, report the income, and get to deduct a percentage of our expenses.

3. Choose your spending priorities. We used to vacation at Cannon Beach, renting a home there every summer. Now we have the cabin, so it's where we get away. This summer we had yet another heat wave, and one day I got into the truck and the thermometer in the rearview mirror told me that it was 42 degrees Celsius. We headed up to the cabin the next day to escape the heat and swim in mountain lakes.

We can't afford to have a cabin at the ski hill and go to Cannon Beach and take tropical vacations. There are only so many dollars to work with. We chose to spend our fun money on this cabin and use it as our vacation place. When we're mortgage-free on our primary residence (soon!), then we may be able to add in the occasional winter vacation to a southern location or make our way back to Cannon Beach. In the meantime, we're extremely thankful that we scored our cabin for the deal that we did, and that we have it to escape to.

Do you have a cabin or cottage? How do you make it work?