How I finally turned my childhood dream of owning a pool into a reality
"I feel most alive when I'm in the water—so having the option to swim regularly was a must for me."
How I Bought That is a weekly spending column from HelloGiggles that takes a peek inside the process of making a major purchase, whether your budget is big or small, all your own or supplemented by family and/or financial institutions. In this series, we look at many different spending #situations: from how people afforded big purchases like first homes (with the help of real estate-savvy in-laws), new electric vehicles, splurge-worthy items like a pool, and more. The common thread here is saving with a goal in mind, and then spending as if you had it all along.
The thing about growing up is that we’re always searching, on some subliminal level, to make right with our childhood selves. We don’t always turn out to be the astronauts, artists, teachers, or presidents that we aspired to be when we were young, but there are little building blocks of who we wanted to be that we get to fit into our adult selves. The pool I always wanted is my building block—or one of them, at least. There were a million things I wanted to be, but there were not a million things I wanted to have. My life wasn’t really shaped like that. The pool I wanted to have had a lot to do with how I felt (and still feel) when I was in the water: free and at home.
At eight years old, I drew up a construction “plan” for my father, letting him know that our admittedly tiny backyard could accommodate my dream pool. No dice; he said the yard was too small, and he didn’t want the work, anyway. Years later, when I was in college, I surprised my father with an inflatable pool on Father’s Day. But I never leveled the lawn, so my half-full, downward-tipping pool was, to hear him tell it, “Nothing but a giant pond for mosquitoes.” So he threw it in the trash.
I got my dad that pool, in part, because I thought he would find it funny. (He did not.) I also got him the pool as payback for never getting me one; even though he said the yard was too small, I still believe it would have fit. Either way, the gift was a miserable failure, though it reminded me that I could still fulfill my own dream someday.
When I started looking for homes with my husband, a pool was on my bucket list. My husband didn’t particularly want one, but I was able to convince him that a pool was a “property value-increasing investment.”As someone who grew up within miles of ocean beaches, in coastal Massachusetts, the idea of not being able to swim regularly on hot days creates a type of claustrophobia within me. I book hotels with pools, even in sub-par climates. The idea that I could actually have a pool of my own—which, growing up, seemed the privilege of only the luckiest of families—seemed like a wild fantasy to me that I needed to come true.
Although the house we eventually bought had no pool at all, it did have room for one, and so I designed my dream pool myself. And when my husband and I got married at our house on a cold and rainy day, he jacked the heat up to 100 degrees and we jumped in with our clothes on. In that sense, our small pool will always be part of the lore of our wedding day. I love it more because of that.
At 37 years old, I finally had the pool my childhood self always wanted. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that a thing you’ve always wished for is right there in front of you, staring you in the face. But there it was, the envy of my childhood self, in my backyard, and it’s mine, mine, mine. And guess what? It’s just as awesome as I knew it would be.
How much did the pool cost you? How did you pay for it?
Our 12-by-24-foot pool with a vinyl liner, poured-concrete walls, concrete-paver coping, salt-generator, heater, and automatic cover (plus electric and propane) cost about $50,000. We live in a very expensive area, so that’s not necessarily normal. And the automatic cover, which could potentially protect my three-year-old if he were to fall on top of it, was an $11,000 safety precaution that my husband and I agreed was necessary. We took out a loan for the pool, at about a 7% interest rate, but we were able to consolidate it into our mortgage after one year, so now it’s wrapped into our 4% rate.
How did you feel once you were finally able to get the pool of your dreams?
It’s hard to overstate how happy my pool makes me. I’m a writer and I work from home. The luxury of a midday swim (or the very unadvisable practice of working from my laptop while standing in the shallow end) is something I still can’t believe I get to experience on a daily basis. Having a pool is a lot of work, of course. That’s something a pool owner has to reckon with, especially in an area like New York, where I live, where the pool is unusable for more months of the year than it’s useable. Still, for me, at least, the rewards outweigh everything else. Possibility after impossibility is such a wide-open space. Like the water, for me, it feels free.
Did you have any regrets throughout this process?
Building a pool is really a nightmare. Although my pool looks the way I wanted it to, since my husband and I designed it, getting there was a long haul. In hindsight, I’d much rather buy a house that already has an existing pool than build one myself. Still, I’m not at all regretful of the outcome. My pool really is beautiful, and our home is a hub for our friends and family in the summer.