A cheaper life in the suburbs?

Let's rip this Band-Aid right off: We looked at houses in the Lower Merion School District this weekend. We still want to stay in the city, but when a friend sent us a listing for a $250,000 house in Bala Cynwyd, we gave into temptation and looked.

A much smaller mortgage and a stellar school district? For that, we might tolerate a commute.

Predictably, the house was too small, with a layout that not even our most creative sides could envision transforming into something appealing. The Realtor also showed us a nearby house for $389,900. That one was beautiful, and we could have moved into it tomorrow.

But unless we could talk the owner down a lot, it wouldn't save us much. At this point, though, a suburban house at the right price could buy us off.

We have more than a year to think about this, so we won't be bidding on anything soon. We prefer Philadelphia, but increasingly, our mortgage is boosting the appeal of the suburbs. We bought our house in September 2006, at the height of the boom. I knew we were paying too much, but we needed a home and could afford the payment. We envisioned lazy breakfasts on our third-floor deck, with a view of the skyline. Pretty soon our beloved little boy arrived, thinning our wallets and leaving no time for leisurely meals.

We can still afford the house, but only if both of us keep working. If we have to pay for private school on top of the mortgage, we will not have much left over.

Of course, we love our neighborhood, and moving is a pain. Our house would need tons of work before we could sell it, and neither of has time to do it.

Tomorrow, I am going to yet another kindergarden open house. Once again, school choice is making my head hurt.