Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Hamster Wheel

By all measurements, this year is a tougher one financially for Americans: the dollar is weaker, gas prices are higher, and home prices nationally fell 14.4 percent in March from a year earlier. We're all running on hamster wheels these days, legs churning madly and getting nowhere fast.

My little family is actually in better shape from a year ago, if only because our financial situation in 2007 was so dire to begin with. We're not out of the woods, but the trees have opened enough to allow a little sunshine through and the occasional sniff of fresh air. We actually took a little weekend trip this Memorial Day, something we hadn't done since moving to San Francisco.

One big reason for my sudden euphoria: Our new apartment. The last two weeks have been a crazy jumble of phone calls, open houses, credit checks and application forms. We came very close to leasing a beautiful place in the outer Sunset; two bedrooms, plus dining room and breakfast nook. Fabulous condition. $250 cheaper a month than our current place. But the commute to Benny's school would have been just as long, if more pleasant. We would've needed a car, with all its attendant expenses. Tempting, but we passed.

Instead, we chose a small place two blocks from Benny's school. $500 less a month in rent. No car needed. CIty Car Share cars nearby. Benny can ride his tricycle or his wagon to school. My 90-minute morning commute will be cut in half. So while I'll probably have to store our pots in the oven and my books in the garage, I can live with the sacrifices.

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