Steamboat Springs Dawn Mayhew doesn't have a sport utility. She doesn't have a snowmobile. There are a lot of things she doesn't have.
What she does have is a home of her own.
Mayhew is single, divorced and works as a lab technician at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She earns less than $25,000 a year.
"I've been saving since I split up with my ex-husband," she said. "I've been saving for a home for about 15 years. You have to decide what is a priority. I have my mountain bike, which I love. I have hiking boots. I have a pair of skis and a bathing suit. What else do you need?"
Last summer she moved into a new manufactured home in Pioneer Village. She paid cash for about half of the $190,000 necessary to close the deal on the lot and the three-bedroom home. Her monthly mortgage payment is well within her means. The pride she takes in her home is self-evident.
"My favorite thing about it is that it's mine, and I did it myself," Mayhew said.
Dawn Mayhew's is a success story, but it isn't clear whether she could begin her savings plan in 2002 and catch up with the cost of housing 15 years hence.
Mayhew grew up in an upper middle-class neighborhood in Maryland and came to Steamboat in her teens.
She and her ex-husband owned a home in Steamboat II in the 1980s, and during those two years, their marriage broke up. They had purchased the home for $55,000 and wound up selling it for $54,000.
"I don't regret it a bit," she said.
Mayhew moved in with her mother, Betty Leipold, for a time and in 1993 purchased a mobile home in Sleepy Bear trailer park. That investment didn't grow she sold the home seven years later for what she paid for it. The trailer served as a non-interest bearing savings account, Mayhew said. And she was doing everything to save money during those years.
"A lot of people think I'm really cheap, but I don't think I am," she said. "I just hate being in debt."
So, how did Mayhew save up all of that money on a modest salary while raising a son alone? Her formula is pretty straightforward.
"When I get my paycheck I pay my bills," she said. "Then I write myself a check (that goes to savings). I put it in my checkbook and I pretend like I'm broke. I budget what's left over."
The big expenses that accrue to life in Steamboat are where Mayhew really saves money. She's still driving the Toyota Corolla she purchased in 1992 and can think of no reason to replace it. Her passion for skiing could be expensive, but her equipment came from the offseason sales tent, and she works off her season pass serving one day a week as an ambassador on the mountain.
Mayhew looks around the new home she shares with her son, Timmy, 15, and still can't quite believe it.
"It amazes me," she confessed. "If you can make it in Steamboat, you can go anywhere. But I don't ever want to sell my house because if I did, I wouldn't be able to come back here."