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I Paid Cash: A Viola

We paid cash!A testimony from Krysten

During my studies at college, I was required to take a strings class and learn a new instrument. My instrument of choice was the viola, and I loved it! I took the class for three semesters, and also played in a volunteer orchestra when my schedule allowed.

While in college, I met my future husband, and after we graduated, we got married, got jobs, had a couple of kids, and got busy with life. I occasionally wished that I could play the viola again, but knew that we didn’t have the money for an expensive instrument.

Six years passed in which I never touched a viola.

Last Christmas however, I received some money from a family member… and since we always use any Christmas or birthday money that we receive as “splurge” money, I decided to start saving for a viola!

My Christmas money wasn’t nearly enough, but it was a start. I checked prices and found some new low-quality beginner violas in the $400 range, so I figured that I could buy a nice used viola for about that amount.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t just scrape the extra money out of the corners of our budget. We just had another baby, so I wasn’t working at all for two months, and would only be working about half of my normal amount for the next three months, so we had already cut our budget as much as possible. This meant that I had to find an extra source of income.

I had been inspired about Crystal’s posts on living simply and decluttering your home, so I decided to find everything in our home that we did not need or use, and ended up with a hefty pile of boxes.

Next, I began my mission to sell as much of my stuff as possible. I sold some items on Craigslist and joined a friend at her garage sale, but I still had less than half of the money I needed. My household purge continued, and a few weeks later, I held my own garage sale. The money from this sale put my total at $371.75. It was time to find my viola!

The only problem was, there were no used violas for sale! I had already been watching Craigslist for two months, and hadn’t seen a single viola listed. I checked around online, but wasn’t impressed by the cheap quality of the new instruments that my budget would allow. I decided to keep waiting.

Four weeks after my garage sale, I found a beautiful viola for sale that had been owned by musicians who had taken excellent care of it. There was a minor problem with the bow, and because of that, they were only asking $175 ($200 less than my budget!)

So not only did I pay cash for my beautiful viola, but I also have almost $200 to use for lessons – as soon as I find a teacher!

Krysten is a piano teacher in central IL. She has been married for five years and has two children, ages 3 and 6 months. She loves making music, good food, and fun family memories.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  • Lori in NC says:

    How wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I am so happy for you. Keep a song in your heart.

  • Meredith says:

    Dang, violas are cheap! I’m an oboist and my replacement will cost a small fortune, not to mention the small fortune I spend on reeds! Congrats on playing again and paying it off in cash!

    • Krysten says:

      When I took the strings class in college, I actually debated between learning the viola or the cello. Even though I like the cello better, I chose the viola because I knew that I could probably afford to buy one someday if I liked it well enough.

    • Susan says:

      No, they’re not. The author either bought a very low-end instrument, or the owner had no clue as to it’s value and sold it for less than they could have.

      • Jamie says:

        I’m a violist too and love it. Krysten – congrats on your hard work. You did great and I know it will feel amazing to have those strings under your fingers again! Play from your heart and you will sound beautiful!

      • Krysten says:

        Well,Susan, I’d still rather pay $175 for a low-end instrument than $400, so either way, I’m happy. =)
        But it’s good to know that I might be able to get a cello for a good deal. That’s my 3-year-old son’s favorite instrument right now. I’m planning to start him on the piano sometime this next year, and if he’s still interested in the cello in a few years, we’ll see what we can find for him.
        Jamie, you don’t happen to live in central IL, do you? 😉

        • Susan says:

          Three is way too young for piano. A 3-yo’s little hands aren’t even big enough for fingering. Unless a child is some sort of prodigy, kids who start piano lessons at 7 or 8 so will be just a proficient by age 10 or so as a child who started piano at 3 or 4 will be at the same age.

          Which is not to say that exposure to music isn’t beneficial for young toddlers — it is. Music classes are wonderful for little ones, though, especially those that involve motion and exposure to instruments they can manage, such as percussion.

          • Krysten says:

            It’s more for his own fun than anything else. He loves to learn! I would mostly be teaching him basic music theory at this age, like the key names, note types/values, basic dynamic signs, and things like that, along with basic application on the keyboard (find a C, play a key forte, etc.).

            I won’t take piano students until they’ve completed kindergarten, but I figure that if I can teach my son things like numbers and phonics at home, why not start music-related learning as well? He already loves music (he alternates between being a conductor, a pianist, and a cellist). 🙂 As long as I make it fun, he’ll love it!

        • Susan says:

          I didn’t mean my comment to be snarky, so I’m sorry if it came across that way. I was just saying that viola’s are not “cheap” instruments. A viola that is middle-of-the-road in quality and in good condition will normally cost a lot more than $175. I’m happy for you if you did indeed get an awfully good deal on a decent quality instrument.

          If you are serious about playing though, you will not be happy with a low-end viola in the long run.

        • Jamie says:

          No… Tennessee. But if you’re ever driving through…!

  • Ashley says:

    I have a violin I haven’t played in years…makes me wish I could still remember how to play. Congrats on your great find!

    • Krysten says:

      Get it out and play around with it some – it might come back to you! When I first got my viola, it had been 6 years since I’d touched one and it felt very awkward, but the basics came back to me as I started to play it.

  • heather says:

    You’ve inspired me. I also played the viola in high school & college, but I don’t own one & haven’t played in 10 years or so. I’m going to start selling some stuff & see what I can do. Thanks.

  • Mary says:

    Good for you!! Your post reminds me of the children’s picture book “The Seven Silly Eaters,” you should get it for yourself for a treat to read to your kiddos :). Actually, I should buy it for me, too for Christmas LOL.Enjoy playing!

  • Kristie says:

    Great post! Instruments aren’t cheap, so being able to scrimp and save like that and find a rewarding deal is a real blessing. May the Lord use your music and your diligence!

  • Kay says:

    I played viola too once upon a time! Beautiful sound.

  • Chelsea says:

    Good job Krysten! That’s such a blessing you were able to find one so affordable! One of my biggest regrets from my high school years is not taking my flute playing more seriously. I realize now what a blessing it was to have those free lessons (via school band) and paid for instrument. Oh- hindsight! 🙂

  • Katherine says:

    Awww. This is a great story. I can sooooooooooo identify with it taking a long time to save up $400. The stories of people paying off $60,000.00 of debt in a year mean nothing to me. But $400? Yes, this is wonderful. Enjoy playing your viola! 🙂

    • Krysten says:

      You know, I hesitated to submit this story because I had “only” saved $400, and like you said, so many of the posts on here show people who saved massive amounts of money that I could only dream of. But I decided to send it in anyways, because I know from reading in the comments on here that there are a lot of readers here with low incomes like ours who would get a blessing from reading my little $400 story.
      Thanks, Crystal, for deciding to post my story!

  • Sandy says:

    All in the Lord’s time! Now, you will be able to play lullabies for you babies. Lovely, so lovely!

    • Jenny in UT says:

      I loved this article and am so happy! And then Sandy’s comment brought tears to my eyes as I envisioned a mother playing lullabies to her babies on the viola.

      • Krysten says:

        Well, when I first brought it home, my baby girl was only 3 months old and she hated it – she cried when I played! 😉 But she likes it now, and my son will often ask me to play my “veelola.” 🙂

        • Sandy says:

          Oh my gosh, too cute! My mother and I used to attend the Milwaukee Symphony concerts and she had a great love for the violin. I now have a great love for the violin as well. I think it would be one of life’s treasures to have a family member playing an instrament in the house.

        • Susan says:

          My dog howls when my daughter plays her viola. It’s hysterical.

  • Jamie says:

    I love this story! I am a flautist and former music teacher. I learned the violin and cello in my strings class (as much as you can learn in one semester anyway). I had always wanted to learn how to play the violin, but after marching around the large room with it under my chin I started having second thoughts. lol 🙂 Good for you for making the time for this in your life.

  • Susan says:

    I commented earlier but it doesn’t appear to have come through …

    In my area, you can rent musical instruments for a very reasonable monthly payment. If you decide to purchase the instrument, the rental payments are applied to the purchase cost, so you really can’t lose. It’s a great way to invest in a musical instrument. I’d guess that similar programs are available in other areas as well.

    If you don’t continue to pursue playing after a while, the rental cost can be a lot less than if you would have purchased the instrument outright. For children, a benefit of renting is that you can simply swap the instrument out for a bigger one as they grow instead of buying multiple instruments in different sizes over time.

  • Emily says:

    I have played the piano since a little before my 4th birthday, and I’ve always wanted to give lessons. After I moved out from my parents’ house, I didn’t have one. However, the church I attended when I was growing up was *really* small (there were about 10 of us on a good Sunday), and when they decided to join congregations with another Methodist church, they asked if I wanted their full grand piano. I was *so* happy about it!!

    Maybe I can work up the courage to start offering classes….still a little nervous about that. But thank you for the motivation!

  • Erin says:

    That’s great that you are playing the viola again! And that you worked so hard to get your own instrument. 🙂 Sounds like you got a good find.

    For others who are looking for beginner instruments, or would be a good place to look. You can get everything (bow, instrument, case) for under $200 if you wanted. If it’s a violin or viola, you’ll also probably want a shoulder rest for about $20. If you are just looking for a little hobby or to see how you like it, this is a great way to go. All of my six siblings and I play string instruments, and we all started on a cheaper beginner one. I ended up going a more professional route and studied violin in college and I still play in orchestras. If you get farther, you’d want to invest in a more expensive instrument and go to a local shop to find one you like the sound of. A good aim for that would probably be $3000-$8000. You also hear of professionals who play on a Stradivarius violin for $3 million, so it’s important to keep it in perspective of where you’re at.

    • Jennifer says:

      Congratulations! I am also a violist, I’m happy for you getting back into it! I also have a three year old who loves music and likes to conduct. He attended his first grown up concert this past week, to see me play, and was perfectly quiet during all of the music! Early exposure to music is definitely good.

      If you want to trade up at some point, you might consider seeing what local violin makers have to offer. Their own instruments will of course be expensive, but they often sell a variety of less expensive instruments and they are almost always much higher quality for the price than what you will get from an instrument rental type of store (or lower end from Shar, for instance). They can talk you through the reasoning for the price too. For instance, I bought an unsigned (makes it cheaper), Chinese (cheaper), new (cheaper than old) viola with an amazingly beautiful sound. It sounds better than many more expensive instruments I have encountered. I bought it near the end of college after saving up, and for what I could afford I just wanted the sound. I might be able to buy something more expensive now, but I love this instrument! You may also find as you progress that trading up to a better bow makes a good difference in sound and your comfort in playing without being as expensive as trading up in viola. Just wanted to offer some more encouragement and information in this area.

      Oh, and once you are feeling confident in playing, maybe look into playing in a community orchestra? It keeps me practicing, which is sometimes hard to make myself do with my sweet little children distracting me. Lots of fun too!

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