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Cool off your house fever with a long-term financial plan

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

My husband and I are in our early 30s, and we are not homeowners. We never have been homeowners, actually. Much of this is because of our expat lifestyle, but even if we were stateside, chances are, we’d still be renters.

And we are okay with that.

There were times when we seriously looked into buying a home, and I definitely struggled with home envy. I often felt like the only person in my demographic without a mortgage and who was “throwing away” my money to rent. But hindsight being 20/20, God protected us from ourselves and prevented us from signing any deals.

The reason I’m so thankful to not be homeowners is because when we were looking into it, we did not know as much as we know now. Many of you know that I’ve drunk the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid, but I really am so thankful for his radio show, his books, and for his Financial Peace University course, because through them my eyes were opened to so much about mortgages, PMI, contracts, down payments, tax write-offs, and the like.

I never knew much about personal finance growing up, and it never was a huge interest of mine. But the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. And the more I learned about how to handle our own family’s finances, the more I wanted to learn about broader topics, such as home ownership.

I don’t pretend to know everything – not by a long shot – but with the little bit I have learned, we’ve created a long-term plan to become home owners, and to do it well the first time.

Here’s our family’s home ownership plan:

1. Save up for at least a 20% down payment. 50% would be ideal.

2. Sign only a fixed-rate, 15-year mortgage that’s no more than 25% of our income.

3. Buy a fixer-upper in an up-and-coming neighborhood. I am extremely blessed to have a husband that knows how to build a home from scratch, since he used to be a contractor – hopefully, we can put quite a bit of sweat equity into a home.

4. If we love the home we’ve fixed up, we’ll stay. But if we don’t, we’ll sell at the right time and take the equity from that home and upgrade – doing the same thing as before. Buy a fixer-upper in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

5. Eventually, we want to custom build a smallish, eco-friendly home from scratch, and stay there long-term. And pay off the mortgage as fast as we can.

I know it’s always that cut-and-dry, and that there are a lot more details involved in home ownership. But in a nutshell, we won’t consider buying a home until we’re able to do the above steps, and to do them well.

If you want to own a home, but you’re just not ready yet, please know that you’re not alone. There are a lot more renters out there than you’d think, and they’re doing just fine. It’s so easy to believe that home ownership is everything, because that’s what our culture tells us. But renters really are whole human beings, capable of intelligent rationale and mature decision-making skills.

Home ownership is great when it’s a blessing. But when it’s not, it’s a curse. Just ask millions of people who’ve made headline news recently.

When you get house fever and it’s just not time to buy yet, here are some tips to cool you down:

Work on your budget and figure out how you can save just a bit more.

• Listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show – either find a local radio station, or pick up his podcast online, like I do.  You can also catch him on TV.

• Take FPU, either locally or online. I can’t recommend this enough.

• Take it one step further, and join My Total Money Makeover, where you can find accountability and encouragement for following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps with others.

• Focus that energy you’re using on home envy onto something else – exercise, crafting, reading, or skill-building.

• Pray. Ask God to help you with contentment.

• Drive through the lower-class part of town, praying for those people and giving thanks to God for what He’s given you.  Not with a superiority complex – with a humble, grateful attitude and an open heart to do more to bless others.

• Start a list of things you’re thankful for. Post it somewhere prominently, and add to it regularly.

poverty-stricken homes
Photo by Mike Rosales

• Remember how the rest of the world lives – Americans live so much more richly than the rest of the world.

• Go one step further, and sign up to support a child who truly needs help.

• Balance your checkbook.

• Start living on the envelope system, if you haven’t yet.

• Go on a cheap date with your spouse – walk around a bookstore, or go hiking.

• Avoid shopping when you don’t need to. You’ll save more money for that big down payment.

• Stop dwelling on it – think of something else. Use a Redbox code and rent a free DVD.

• Finally, make a plan. Instead of just pouting that you don’t own a home, get out a pencil and paper, and figure out how to get that money you need socked away.

Have you ever struggled with house fever? How have you successfully handled it? What is your family’s longer-term plan towards financial peace?

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Comments

  1. We haven’t bought a house yet either. Our goals are similar to yours and have been learned by listening to Dave Ramsey as well.

    Right now the housing market in our area is really good. (Good for buying, not selling.) It would be a good time to buy but we’ve committed to at least a 20 % down payment along with the 15 year mortgage that you mentioned. It’s hard to wait but we know that when the time is right and we’ve completed saving our down payment, God will provide the right house for us at the right price.

    Thanks for this post!

    Mary Ann’s last blog post…Making My Home A Haven: Clean

  2. We spent four years in Thailand and it changed my perspective on alot of things – home ownership included.

    We don’t own a house. We rent. And it may be a long, long time before we have enough money to buy. (We drank the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid, too.)

    But that’s okay. I am so thankful for our rental. It’s in a safe neighborhood. I can let our kids play in the fenced yard. And we have a roof over our heads. That’s more than many around the world enjoy.

    I’m thankful.

  3. Two yrs after we were married, we bought a small, inexpensive house. We bought it with the idea of it being a “starter house”. Our house has been paid off long ago and 11 yrs later we are still in our small “starter house”.

    I think often about moving. Of buying a larger, cooler, old, brick house with a large veranda or a screened in porch etc. But truth is – I’m thankful we have a paid off house and it’s cozy (cheaper to heat and cheaper to cool as well). It really is big enough for the 4 of us (it was built just after WWII and the builder had an incentive plan for the subdivision…more kids you had – less you paid for your house or some such deal…so 4 kids were raised in this little house and someone they did it).

    Edi’s last blog post…"You can never get silence anywhere nowadays, have you noticed?"

  4. I’ve got a somewhat related question, Simple Mom. Are you able to podcast Dave Ramsey’s whole radio show, or do you just get the first hour? I subscribed a few weeks ago and can’t figure out how to get more than that. If you have any tips for how to do this, I’d really appreciate it – I can’t get enough of him!

    • I can listen to all three hours as a subscriber to My Total Money Makeover online, which is $9 a month. I believe that’s the only way to get all three hours, so I guess it just depends on how high a value it is for you.

      I’ve debated canceling my membership, but the forums there really are great, I’ve learned a ton from the people there, and they have good budgeting tools and articles there, too.

      • Are there subscriber only forums? I know that there are forums you can get to without the subscription. I go there occasionally. Don’t know if you can post, although you can read them all. Also, you can catch the whole three hours live if you can listen 2-5 eastern.

        James Miles´s last blog post…Conversations with Will

  5. Tsh – I’m really glad you wrote about this! We, too, are renters. Since we move a lot, it doesn’t make sense for us to own a home. You have to be in the home for at least 5 years in order to justify the closing costs and other transaction fees. Even if you are going to be in one place for longer, it doesn’t always make financial sense to own a home. In some places in the country, renting can be *much* cheaper than owning even when you take into account the mortgage tax breaks. Owning a home only makes financial sense when the house will appreciate faster than other things you could have invested in.
    We saw this housing crash coming and convinced several of our friends to sell their houses to become renters. Three of them did, and they are such happy campers right now! They are saving the equity from the sold house to put into a new house once this craziness abates.
    The advice you wrote is excellent. There’s only one thing I would add: read up on world economic trends. We subscribe to the Economist magazine and read it every week. By doing this, we were able to see of the housing bust coming and warn our friends. We were also able to see the impending increase in food prices and plan our budget accordingly. You could diligently save for a house and still loose it all in a housing bust. It really pays (pun intended) to read about economic trends, especially in the global economy of today.

    Josie’s last blog post…Organizing Your Charity Giving

    • Great advice, Josie! I admit to not subscribing, or really following trends up and close, so yours is good wisdom I need to practice. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. My husband and I both come from areas with _MUCH_ lower costs of living than where we live now. It’s very difficult to see how our friends and family live and _not_ get home envy (my husband’s sister and bro-in-law bought a 3-br SFH with 3/4 of an acre of land and my brother bought a 3-br SFH wth 1/3 of an acre both for considerably less than we spent on a small 2-br condo).

    This is especially difficult right now as we’re due with baby #2 and “no place” to put him/her or their stuff. Right now our plan is to pack ‘n play it for as long as we can, then potentially switch rooms with the kids – we sleep in the nursery, the kids in the much larger “master” BR.

    We’re doing everything we can to stock away a good-sized down payment, but we would only make what we bought it for if we sold our current place right now (nothing extra even to cover closing costs, etc., much less to account for the improvements we’ve made). The economy’s not helping that effort either (we’ve got a good bit in hubs’ company’s stock, but that being a plumbing distributor, the stock’s in the gutter right now – and I can’t imagine that our money market acct is doing well right now either).

    In any case, having lived overseas for a while myself, and being a minister’s kid (back before they paid ministers a true living wage), I’m used to doing with less and am confident in God’s provision at exactly the right time. I definitely agree with your “count your blessings” suggestions. We may not be where we thought we’d be at this point in our marriage, but we live quite comfortably all things considered and have a back-up plan for if we need to stay here a little longer.

    Princess Leia’s last blog post…Dagnabbit

  7. Also… I hope this article isn’t a discouragement to those of you who have learned some lessons the hard way (aka, first-hand). Please share your stories and wisdom as well! :)

    I want this to be an encouragement for everyone reading.

  8. Thank you for a very encouraging article. This is something I definitely struggle with. It’s especially hard when you’re not in an ideal renting situation. I’m thankful that we’ve learned so much recently about personal finances, especially about Dave Ramsey and Pear Budget thanks to you! I think doing FPU online before we consider buying would be a good step for us.

    Gidget’s last blog post…Jekyll & Hyde were here… A Question of Contentment

  9. Love this post. In retrospect I wish we could have picked a different neighborhood. We bought a newer house far from town. Now, this area is being built up, with shopping centers. I have seen all the horse fields all but disapear. We don’t have a lot in common with our neighbors. If I was going to do it again I would have bought a house in an up and coming neighborhood, like you said. We would have had more money to use on fixing it up. We would have been able to walk to the store and driven less. But, I am also thankful we didn’t buy a house that was outside our means. I know a lot of people that have done that. We like our big backyard and now there is this cool eco-friendly coffee/ice cream shop that has opened within bike riding distance! All is good.

  10. Tsh,

    You’re right, when you’re ready to buy there’s a contentment and sense of security that comes from knowing that you have a long term commitment to your home and a payment you can afford.

    We bought our home with 20% down and a 15 year mortgage (just as you suggest). It was a fixer, and we’ve put money into the home as we could afford it, and that means that it meets our needs better than a fancy new home would. We’re lucky that we bought long enough ago that the home is still worth a bit more than we paid for it, but even if its value dips, the fact that we’re not planning to go anywhere soon will help us weather the storm.

    Sometimes I get home envy… a better neighborhood, a different floor plan, but the knowledge that sticking to the plan will mean that this home is paid off before my oldest is in college gives me the willpower to stay where I am.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Debbie Dubrow’s last blog post…10 Time Tested Products To Make Your Holiday Travels Easier

  11. There’s no way I’d be a homeowner if I hadn’t married by husband. Who is a great saver. Because I am not.

    There is something very secure-feeling about owning and being in a home for many years. At the same time, I kind of miss the excitement of moving somewhere fresh and new every so often.

    Angie (from over at http://www.HalfAssedKitchen.com)

    Half Assed Kitchen’s last blog post…Baked apples in brandy

  12. Wow…what a timely post. My husband and I are too feeling like we are “the only ones” renting of our friends, and I admit to having home envy (especially as prices are coming down in my over-inflated housing market). I’ve been working on reminding myself that it’s far far better for us to rent a house we can afford, than to buy one we can’t.

    I’ve also been reminded (by my mother) that many many young marrieds have had to live in rentals, in spaces far tighter than they’d like, and in worse neighbourhoods than Husband and I live in. I am challenged to think long-term with home ownership and to be thankful for the place that we rent.

  13. We attended The Total Money Makeover this year – Dave (I call him Uncle Dave – cuz he’s that good) was inspiring. I have listened to him for years. We actually bought his books for children and my kids love them. They are teaching some great principles about money and I hope they can start off their adult life with even more knowledge and money savvy than I did.

    Thanks for the post! = Love it1

  14. This post couldn’t have been more timely for us. We ARE homeowners, ones that have been trying to sale a house due to a move to be closer to family. We currently rent in the area we now live in so we are maintaining two sets of bills for a home and an apartment. Our home (in another state now) has been for sale since January. We’ve dropped the price 25K and its now below what we paid for the house and still no prospects for selling it.

    Husband wants to stay in this apartment two more years (after the house sells) to re-save a huge down payment for our next house. I struggle with so many of the things you mentioned: house envy, etc. I want a huge yard for my little boy to play in. But he would be just as happy playing at the park. This post has helped me see the wisdom in his desire.

    Its been hard to know we are losing around 10k in equity (at least). But I think about people who are having their homes taken away from them. Or someone who is losing hundreds of thousands. And how blessed we are for me to stay home and be able to pay all our bills and have no credit card debit. Sometimes I just have to think about perspective instead of rolling around in my own pity pit.

  15. Wow, what an awesome post! For anyone with house fever who’s not ready yet, just read my comment. DH and I have TWO homes, one we could not sell and the second, we (stupidly) built when we needed to relocate. And THEN the housing market started to tank. So now we have a renter, who leaves us a few hundred short of mortgage & fees for house #1, and a lovely house that could have been bigger and better had we bought pre-built.

    And THEN my husband got laid off – and he made a lot of money. Our tight times (it took 6 months of paying TWO mortgages to get a renter) led me (thankfully) getting a “get us out of the hole” job, which kept us afloat during initial layoff. Husband is temping at almost 50% of his old salary, but we are good. (God always supplies).

    gina b’s last blog post…The ups and downs of being a special needs parent

  16. We struggled with this for a while when we first started renting 3 1/2 years ago. I am so glad we didn’t buy anything. We are actually working on paying off student loans while simultaneously saving enough for some inexpensive land with a small, humble fixer upper home. Doing this two month no spend challenge this month and next should get us a lot closer to finishing paying off these loans. After the loan is paid off we will continue to put all of our savings towards our future home and hope to have enough saved within 1-2 years to purchase it out right. After being in debt from student loans we do not want a mortgage. I feel that is the better way to go.

    Shannon’s last blog post…Kitchen tip: reuse parchment paper

  17. I am a homeowner. We found a fantastic deal on a historic home in my hometown before the bubble. Liveable but needing some fixing. We made sure that we could afford the mortgage payment. We have a 30 year, fixed rate. However, we pay an extra 1/12 a month toward principal which will take our 30 year loan to a 19 year loan. Other than that, we live debt free. No credit card debt, no vehicle loans, nothing. We live within our means, even when we do without what our contemporaries seem to have. I used to be jealous that we did without. Now, I am starting to feel proud about it. We have sacrificed and have gotten so much piece of mind in exchange. It’s totally worth it.

    Bryssy’s last blog post…Free Chore Chart Download

  18. That Dave Ramsey Kool-aid is good stuff! I wish we had known about it BEFORE we bought our house 5 years ago (had saved 20% and taken a 15 year mort.). Fortunately, we made some ok decisions but I would have preferred to have made great choices. In the last 2 years we’ve paid off a bunch of small debts ($18,000!) and have saved almost 3 months living expenses. I’ve tried to convince my extended family that it is possible to not live check to check but they don’t want to delay gratification in order to make it happen. We are hoping to move in 2009 and will probably rent in the new area until we have a larger down payment saved up.

    stephaniesmommybrain’s last blog post…A Homemade Race Car.

  19. Great post!

    My husband and I have NO interest in buying a house at this time. We have no money to put down, and we don’t think we want to stay in this area for long. Renting is a lot cheaper than a mortgage, taxes, insurance, and all the other fun stuff that comes with a house.

    Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to start saving money for a down payment, as we too would like to put 20% down on a 15-year mortgage.

    But for now, we’re certainly content renters.

  20. I’m somewhat familiar with Dave Ramsey, but I’m not a regular listener. I am a CPA, and my husband and I currently own our second home. I think the criteria for home ownership stated in this post are excellent. I would also add another point. While home ownership can be an excellent investment, selling a home will cost 7-12% of your equity (real estate commissions, title insurance and excise tax in many states). A series of moves can deplete hard won equity even if the home appreciated well. It’s not the best strategy for anyone in a transitional period; renting makes much more sense.

    Another thing for those with “house envy” to consider. Our first home was a small, 3br home built in the 1940′s. It was definitely a “fixer upper” when we purchased it, and we remodeled it to fit us. (I loved that kitchen – it was large for 1940′s standards. I had great appliances, adequate counter space. I spent a year planning it for the way I cook.) We made lots of money when we sold. House #2 cost a little less, but was in a much less expensive city and is much larger – huge to us (3700 sq feet). While we can afford it, there are so many systems (pool, sprinkler system, alarm system, media room, etc.), there is constantly something to fix. It’s a little tiring. It’s so expensive to heat and cool. When we installed new flooring, it was so expensive because the rooms were so large. The previous owners did not install good appliances in the kitchen, so I have a reasonably new oven that does not heat evenly – at all. (I’m making it work for now.) It’s a beast to clean. My husband and I both agree that our next home will be much smaller.

  21. An excellent article Tsh. I bought my little run down house a few years before my husband and I got married. Now we live in it with our new baby girl. We have dreams of building our own little eco-haven someday as well. But for now we are VERY happy in our little old cottage.

    Here are some of my tips I learned when buying my house that I always share:
    -Take a home buying class. A local non-profit in my city offers a GREAT first time home buying class. You learn about different loans, government programs that might be able to help you, the importance of an inspection, etc. And take this class early in your planning process.
    - Look for state and local programs that assist low-income and first time homebuyers. Thanks to programs in our state I received the lowest fixed interest rate possible, no origination fees, and then a city program to rebuild old neighborhoods and assist low income families gave me a grant to fix up the house. (For us, the first qualification was to take the aforementioned class)
    - Find a lender who also knows about the above programs. My first one was clueless, so I found someone else.
    - I bought my house with only my income being considered (obviously since I wasn’t married or co-habitating at the time), so now the house is well within our means.
    - Take your time. I discovered this by accident. From when I first got qualified to when I closed on my house, 18 months had gone by. I had looked at LOTS of houses. I even made offers on a few, but I got outbid(looking back I’m very thankful). Then I found this perfect little house that was a complete eyesore. I was meant to find this house.

    Finally, you are right. Renting is not bad! Homeownership requires a LOT of work and it’ all your responsibility. Even if you don’t have a fixer-upper, you still have to replace appliances, a leaky roof, figure out why water is coming up through the basement, paint, etc.

    • Great suggestions, Erica! I know when it’s time for us, we’ll use one of Dave Ramsey’s ELPs to find what we need. I feel like if he can endorse those people, then I certainly should be able to trust their judgment.

      And so true about taking your time – though it certainly is hard, isn’t it?

  22. what a GREAT, comprehensive post. so encouraging and resourceful.

    my husband works for Dave, we’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and this year (May 1st, to be exact) we began a three and a half year Odyssey of attempting to save up enough cash to put a 100% deposit (PAID IN FULL, BABY) on our first starter home.

    thanks for making us feel not so weird (though that’s the life we Kool-Aid drinkers live…). :) Blessings!

    Kristine’s last blog post…Happy Veterans Day

  23. This is an excellent plan, very wise! My husband and I purchased a home right after we got married, but we were fortunate in that he had been saving up for buying a home for several years prior. We were able to put down 20% and get a fixed rate 15-year mortgage. I feel so blessed knowing that we will be finished paying off our house in a short time!

    Sarah H.’s last blog post…Review: Sanyo Electric Indoor Barbeque Grill

  24. FWIW, renovating a home yourself is hard when you have kids. It really cuts into your quality family time and energy.

    My first home renovation went well, because I was single and had no kids. Over ten years my home went from a dilapidated mess to a showcase, on a shoestring budget. My second renovation went nowhere because by that time I had a husband and two small kids. We had to choose between family time and house-fixing time. Now we live in a modest home which doesn’t need a ton of work, and it is great. We have lots of time for our kids!

    The best possible thing you can do when looking for a house is remain unemotional and get good information about home sale prices in the area where you are looking to buy.

    Also remember that while some areas are up and coming now, when the economy turns downward that area might also fall in value. The up and coming area where my first house was located did rise significantly in value, the neighborhood cleaned up nicely. Now that the economy has taken a hit, the town is in trouble financially. They are closing the library, roads are a mess… Lesson: Do your homework!

    • Yes, absolutely – it’s incredibly hard to renovate with kids in the house. My husband has seen this first-hand in his former line of work, so thanks for reminding all the readers!

  25. Oh gosh! This couldn’t have come at a better time. My husband and I are in our late 20s and I have been talking and talking about getting our own home, or at least getting another apartment that can actually fit us, our son and our kitty. We were in the works to move when he decided out of the blue, that the new place just “didn’t feel right.” At the time I was very uspet but knew that the fact that he couldn’t give me a complete answer as you why he felt that way, meant the Lord was working through him to keep us from a bad situation.

    Now we are still in our little apartment but we both decided to review our finances and take things more seriously while we are in a place that is familiar and paying bills that we are used to paying. Once we do get that house and have our savings intact, we will have better discipline to deal with that big responsibility. Thank you for doing this post. It makes me feel better that someone, even someone on the other side of the world, feels the way we do and understand that there is always a means to an end. Especially, when you are in control of planning the means and getting the end that you want.

    Amiyrah’s last blog post…My blog is worth what?!

  26. This really is an excellent post that can help people re-evaluate their situation. I hate that everyone feels (esp in North America) that home ownership is NECESSARY!!!

    My husband and I are going one step further…we don’t plan on buying unless we have 100%. I know it sounds crazy but we figure if the Lord wants us to have a house we will….if not, then we won’t. I mean most people have mortgages for 30 years +. I think before that time, we could save the money if we’re driven to do so.

    Debt is never talked about positively in the scriptures….ONLY negatively. In the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy it is emphasized that we will be lenders and not borrowers (as a blessing) but the curse is the opposite. The borrower will always be servant to the lender..and the list goes on and on. I also think that in a way…borrowing from the world tells the world that my God couldn’t provide enough for my needs so I have to look elsewhere. I just pray that whatever situation we end up in our life it brings GLORY to His name and nothing else.

    Thanks again for this post!!

  27. I have really enjoyed reading through everyone’s comments and suggestions. I think we can always learn from other’s experiences and take those with us as we make decisions. Thanks for starting this discussion.

    I have been struggling with the fact that we have been renting for over 10 years. I owned two homes with my first husband, got divorced, and started renting again. I loved being a home owner but I also loved not having the maintainence of a home when I rented.
    I remarried, and we set out to own our own a home again. We finally achieved that right when prices were their worst. We planned to tear down and build, and then thankfully, began to see the writing on the wall. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my husband was in the mortgage business and saw the housing market going south. We got out just in time but lost a lot of money. We were lucky enough to still have our rental with pretty cheap rent. God was making the right choice for us, although at the time I was heart broken, he knew what was best.

    We are a family of six ( with three teenagers, one preteen) living in 1600 square feet. I do not like my house, BUT we love our neighborhood, my kids love their schools, and their friends love being here because everyone interacts. You really have no choice in a small house.
    I often retreat to my room just to get a quiet moment but I love our busy household and having my kids around me all the time. In a house this small you always know where everyone is and what they are doing. With teenagers that is plus in my book.

    Do we want to own a home? Yes. But are we going to rush into it like we did last time, just to say we are homeowners? No.
    God had taught me so much through this experience. I now realize we don’t need to own a huge home to have a happy family. We don’t need to own a home at all if we don’t want to . Our friends still love us, our kids still love us, our family will always be there for us, even if we are renters forever.
    I want to own a home for different reasons now and God has shown me that it will be on his terms in his time and I am okay with that.
    I am not sure when it became so important to own a home but I think in generations to come home ownership will be more difficult and renting will not be looked at so negatively.
    Needless to say, whatever the outcome, I leave it up to God and HIS plan for us!

    pam’s last blog post…they’re coming…

  28. avatar
    Big Apple Easy says:

    This post is full of great advice, and you’re right that gratitude is an important practice for every person of faith. But I’ve got to take issue with your advice to drive through a poor neighborhood to feel better about what we have. This is not Christian enough. Would Jesus have driven through a poor neighborhood, felt better about himself, and moved on? Or would he have stayed, talked with his neighbors, and broken bread with them? Over and over again the Bible challenges us to do more for those who have the least. So don’t just drive through! Make some friends, volunteer at a soup kitchen, help with afterschool tutoring, watch a poor single mom’s kids for an hour at the park so she can run some errands. Attend church there once a month, and let your kids go to sunday school; I bet they learn that poor kids are just like them. But I gotta take a pass on the drive-through superiority run.

    • Absolutely, we should do something. Agreed completely.

      The “drive through the neighborhood” idea is for when you’re in the heat of the moment, needing to gain some perspective before making a foolish decision.

      But just for the record, I wholeheartedly agree that we need to do more than just drive through and pray as a regular course in our lives. We should not only exercise giving our money and as a special occasion for the holidays, but as a regular act in our lives. My husband and I believe this, through and through, and experience this all the time overseas.

      Thanks for your suggestion and reminder.

  29. I completely LOVE this article. I’ve been preaching to the choir for a couple of months now. After losing my home due to income changes and some really bad mistakes, I decided the next time I became a homeowner it would be with a large down payment if not cash. I’m sipping the Dave Ramsey Kool-aid but before catching onto his wagon, I’d already assessed the way we pursue homeownership and knew that next time around I was going to do it right. I agree with your list though mine obviously differs for my needs. Keep up the great work. Loving your blog. I’m taking baby steps with mine as of…TODAY! :-)

    Tanisha H.’s last blog post…No Mortgage Payments! Are you for real?

  30. Thanks for this post, I always appreciate your reminders to live simply. My husband and I and two daughters moved recently from a larger home to renting an apartment, and it has been such a good move for us! Life is simpler, with fewer house repairs, etc., so our weekends can be free for family time, and it is actually much easier to have two small children in a small home: fewer toys, fewer rooms to make a mess, less chasing, less time spent cleaning! I do miss trees and a yard, however!

  31. When I met my husband he was 22 & still in college, I was 29 with 2 kids & going through a divorce. We learned quickly how to save money with cheap “dates” Netflix was our guilty pleasuer & Friday night movie for many nights.

    Keana’s last blog post…Around the Corner

  32. Love this. We have the same mentality that you spoke of in the first few paragraphs. Had we bought when I was fretting over it and doing my best to make it happen, we’d be in big trouble right now. Thankfully God helped me see that he is taking care of us now, and will in the future, with or without home ownership. I also have many friends from other countries, and it helps to here them marvel over how Americans feel they must buy a home. One such friend from Europe grew up in a rented apartment where her parents (who are both medical doctors and can probably afford otherwise) still live.
    Thanks for sharing your goals, they are great.

    Jen’s last blog post…

  33. Home ownership is rarely what we dream it will be.

    18 years ago my husband and I purchased our 1st home on a 15 year fixed rate motrgage with 20% down. We spent 8 years “fixing it’ every weekend until we tired of living in a neighborhood of poorly tended homes.

    10 years ago we purchsed a 1920′s farm house. We have been “fixing it” since then. I call it “His Mitress”. It takes all his time and all our money. There is always the unexpected… well pumps, roofs new plumbing, new heating….

    It’s unfortunate but my 16 year old daughter has never lived in a home that is free of power tool noises, frustration and more importantly fun.

    Although we have been financially prudent too much time has passed focused on the wrong things.

    The moral is enjoy your children NOW. Spend your time building memories filled with fun, comfort and peace. Save your money and if you still want a home once the kids are gone, enjoy.

  34. When we first married (7 years ago), we lived in a small starter home in a Raleigh suburb – every week we would go to Bible study at houses of other couples in our SS class and every week we both came home with serious house envy – they all had 2-story, gorgeous, Pottery Barn decorated homes that made ours look like a dump (and it by no means was!) It took several weeks of that for me to realize I had to fight those feelings or we could be in serious trouble. While we lived there, we had little to no financial plan – we spent pretty much everything we made. We knew we wanted to move back to SC where our families were before starting a business & a family. We finally decided it was time to start saving some money. About that time, we attempted to sell that house and move back home – thankfully, we also found Dave Ramsey, and soon became huge junkies and we too, drank the koolaid!

    Our house in NC took 12 months to sell, multiple price drops and we had to take a few hundred dollars to closing – it was so depressing! Down here, we rented a small cabin (super cheap) for a year and a half while we got our business up and going – we had a super tight budget and lived on very, very little. We both worked extremely long hours (hubby for no paycheck for close to a year) so that we could start our dream. Finally in ’05 we took the plunge and built a modular house. We were a bit skeptical at first, but did lots of research (including a trip to the factory) and come to find out, if you get a true “modular” (the definition has been distorted by the dying mobile home industry) it’s the same as a stick-built, except that it’s built in a factory & shipped to your building site in multiple pieces (for us it was 4) and is then set in place using a crane. Using this process, we built our home for a fraction of the cost of a traditional stick-built home (my dad’s a builder and he encouraged us to go this route, as we were able to get so much more for our $$ as a young couple). We didn’t do high-end finishes (but we can upgrade finishes in the future for cash) – we built within our means, but we now have a great house that we love!

    We are big Dave Ramsey fans, so we did have our 20% down and didn’t have to deal with PMI – we did go with a 30 year mortgage, since we were self-employed, but committed to paying it as a 15 (which we have), and as we’ve been able to, as our business has grown, we’ve added even more to the principle each month instead of increasing our standard of living.

    I’m so thankful that we didn’t build immediately when we moved to SC – having 2 mortgage payments for a year might have destroyed our business and we certainly wouldn’t be where we are now. God has been extremely gracious to us and has blessed us & our business, and God-willing, if things continue as is, we have a plan to pay off our house in the next 3 years. All of the saving, budgeting & living with discipline has definitely been worth it! I definitely encourage everyone I meet to budget, save & be patient before buying a house – it’s definitely worth it!

    jodi’s last blog post…WFMW – Live Within Your Harvest

  35. Thanks Tsh! We are on the same plan so this is so encouraging for me.
    I really appreciate it.

  36. Thanks for the post. We purchased a smaller home than the realtors and bank tried to encourage us to do, in the suburbs/rural area, which was affordable. We are so thankful for that decision, but are now facing a very long commute. Now that we have a baby, I have to say that I realize how valuable TIME is. We have considered selling and moving closer to jobs/city (3nd most expensive real estate market in US), however that doesn’t seem feasable at this point. I would definitely say to renters, hang out for while. As your life changes, you may not realize how much your home plan will change too.

  37. I can barely read all these comments without feeling heartache. We are homeowners with a house that we can barely afford. Our property taxes rose $800 last year due {to a negligent error on the part of a city official} which basically busted our budget. Now we are struggling to make up for last year’s increase, plus pay the increased mortgage amount. Sometimes I feel trapped. Many times I have wished that we had never bought. I have not read any of Dave Ramsey’s books, but have seen his program and am aware of his methods from all the blogs that have mentioned him. You all are so wise! Keep focused on your plans! Don’t be in a hurry to own! If only I had known “then”, what many of you know now…..

    Rebecca’s last blog post…C-RAZY Question

    • Hugs, Rebecca. Seriously. God’s got you where you are, and He’s very much there with you.

      Check your local library for one of Dave’s books. If you don’t find one anywhere, write me and let me know. :)

  38. We put 10% down on our house, and took out a 20 year mortgage so that we could easily afford it even if one of us lost our jobs. My stretch financial goal is to have our mortgage paid off by Christmas of next year – not sure if we’ll be able to do it, but we are on a very frugal budget and are going to try our best to make it happen! After that, I’ll feel much more confident staying home with my sweet daughter (and hopefully growing our family). To this point, the impending cost helping my widowed mother in her “golden years” has kept me working.

    Great topic, as usual!

    Steph’s last blog post…Babywearing Bliss – my journey

  39. Tsh – you are SO AWESOME for sharing this encouragement. We are also in our 30s and have also never been homeowners. We just can’t afford it (we’re on the debt snowball Baby Step) and though we’ve tried to go ahead and do it twice, each time God has shown us BIG TIME that we were not being wise. I’d rather be renting than be disobedient to something God has made clear for us!

    Thank you, thank you for this encouragement.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog post…Grateful for the Mama Milk

  40. I’ve been catching your site for a few months now and the first time I read one of your posts I knew you had drank the Dave Ramsey kool aide! I just wanted to say that we paid off $30k in 2 years on one $50k income by listening to him and following his advice and it felt so great! We did however get the house fever shortly after getting out of debt and securing our emergency fund. We did not continue in the baby steps. :( %20 down would make our mortgage payments so much less and we’d have a lot more wiggle room. Plus we’d feel (and be) a lot wiser for the endurance to stick out ‘living like no one else now so we could live like no one else later!’ I know now that if we had I would feel much more secure with the economy and these crazy times. Thankfully God does have his hand on us, we just pray for the humility to be able to do what’s right and live beneath our means even when it’s hard. Blessings to you! And keep up the sacrifice!

  41. This post came at just the right time. As a military couple, we’ve moved 4 times in 5 years. Sometime all I can think about is having a house and settling down somewhere that is all “mine”. Especially in situations like the one we are in now, where we are here only 5 months and living….somewhere not very nice. Your reminder to ask God for contentment is so important. We are very blessed to have a secure job and an opportunity to live around the world. Prayer can make such a difference in my state-of-mind during trying times. In the meantime, we’re saving for that down payment!

    Megan’s last blog post…I hope she doesn’t know I call her Mrs. Buttersticks…

  42. hey. I don’ t know if I’ve commented before or not, but just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your blog but only just found out that you ‘normally’ live overseas. I guess I haven’t been reading closely enough, too much skimming… :S heheh. But many of your topics really have resonated with me. My husband and I live in Peru. We haven’t had any terrible experiences yet with homeownership, the Lord has graciously protected us, but we actually have 2 mortgages stateside and are able to rent them both out. Obviously, probably not recommended by Dave Ramsey, but we really prayed over the decisions and felt like it was what we were supposed to do at the time. Now, we are tempted to worry at the current economic situation, but all we have belongs to the Lord, so I guess if he decides to take them, that is entirely up to Him! But I so agree with all your points on the ideal home purchase front. Very wise.
    I just thought it’d be fun to say hi :)
    Amy
    Trujillo, Peru

    http://homeschoolblogger.com/amada

  43. Thank you so much for this encouraging and timely post! It is so hard not to have house envy sometimes- especially when surrounded by friends and family with lovely beautiful homes. Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to rent and feel 100% ready before buying and to not rush into anything because we feel “left out”. I cannot tell you what a blessing this post is!

    andi’s last blog post…30 days of gratefulness :: 11

  44. I have house fever in a slightly different sense than you, Tsh. We own a 2BR townhome we bought back when I was in grad school and my husband’s teacher salary was our only income. Our plan was to stay here only a couple years, five years at most. Well, I graduated from school, we had a son, and I started work as a government lawyer. I worked for two years and now I am home fulltime with my son. And we still live in this 1000 square foot home. I frequently have home envy, when it feels like ALL of our friends have what I consider a real home, with more space, a yard, and a garage! There was probably a point when we had two incomes that we could have bought that home I envision. But that would have trapped us into remaining a two-income family. Because our mortgage is small, probably less than what we would pay for rent in this area, we can get by (albeit barely!) on one income. Although I occasionally struggle with bouts of coveting others’ homes–and wondering if we’ll ever get there–I am thankful each day for the privilege I have of being with my son all day long. Additionally, we are building equity. Anyway, your blog, and particularly this post, is an encouragement to me as I strive to simplify our family life and focus on what really matters right now.

  45. –Skip the fixer-upper–
    Honestly, just go to your eco-friendly dream house. “Fixing” up a house only sounds like a good idea. It’s ugly, unpredictable, exhausting and just like you never know what’s in the walls, you never know the market status when you want out. Save big, get exactly what you want and stay put. Save yourself the hassle.

  46. We bought our 3br apartment before our kids were born (5yrs ago). After looking around for more then 2 yrs we decided on subsidised govt housing ( nearly 90% of the people here in Singapore live in govt housing) instead of swank private condos or even private property as we factored in the possibility of a single income managing the housing loan( we got a fixed rate tenure for the whole loan duration) when we had kids. Size and how useable the rooms were was high on my priority list as we wanted a place that could accommodate a growing family.

  47. I so needed to read this post right at this moment! I do often feel like we’re the only people in the world who don’t own a house. Thanks for letting me know I’m not a failure for waiting until we’re financially ready!

    Candy’s last blog post…Personalized Geometric Note Cards

  48. What a great article with so many wonderful suggestions! We bought our home six years ago, so this doesn’t really, specifically, apply to us, but as I was reading it I was thinking about all the other things in my life that I tend to get very impatient about. Things that I want, things that I would like to do, etc. Your ideas helped me to see that I need to work on being more patient, but also work at being prepared and ready for when the right time strikes to go after whatever I’m dreaming of. Thanks!

    Courtney’s last blog post…Not many winners around here

  49. What a great, great post.
    I spent my twenties wishing to own a big, big house, and when I finally got it I ended up in debt. I now live in a medium sized house, and when we eventually move, it will be to a small home.
    Losing the need to own a mansion is the best feeling in the world, it sure does take the pressure off

  50. We are renters to although I must admit I am DYING for a house. Dying.

    BUT since I am not dead yet I am trying to be responsible and not buy a house until we have 20-50% of the down payment saved up, we find something affordable, and it is something we love (or, really really like). And in this economy I kind of doubt we could get a mortgage even if we wanted to!

    We rent an apartment now – I think as a way to satisfy my house-bug we are going to rent a home when our lease is up. In our city you can find decent little homes in our neighborhood that are about the same cost as an apartment. And then we can move out of the stage of our life where we share a building with a bunch of screaming, shrieking sorority girls and their loud, obnoxious, beer can crushing frat boyfriends.

    Did I mention I really really want a house?

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…And I’m Back! What To Be Looking For In The Coming Days At Unconventional Origins

  51. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your article and all the comments. We bought our house 6 years ago and following Dave’s principals, we bought less than what the banks thought we could afford. When we bought we had 2 kids 3 and under and now we have 5 plus one on the way! We curbed the house fever this year by saving up $20,000 cash and adding on two rooms to our house. We added a huge laundry/craft/family closet and a sunroom/dining room. It has made a tremendous difference in our comfort level in our home. We figured moving, selling, and buying would be more of a hassle than paying cash for an addition in a house we loved, with great neighbors in a wonderful homeschooling environment. We hope to stay here several more years until we truly outgrow our home.

    Christine @ Live to Learn´s last blog post…I would be kidding myself if . . . .

  52. This is my first time @ Simple Mom and an amazing coincidence! A friend of mine and a huge fan of yours (Emma from http://baby-log.com) always goes on and on about your blog, so I decided to check it out and landed straight on this post – when I run a blog named Home I Own myself :)
    Your post means a lot to me – it actually describes a lot of my thoughts a couple of years ago. My partner and I moved to Australia and rented there for a while, until we finally saved up for a deposit and bought a house.
    I must say that buying a house is such a learning curve! So when we were only beginners in that house-buying thing I decided to share everything I learned about houses in Australia in my blog http://www.homeiown.com.
    When you have just arrived to a new country, everything is so different and you don’t really know what is the right way to do something – but there’s no one to ask. And sometimes people are ashamed to be asking about stuff everyone else seems to know so well.
    Anyway, I just wanted to tell everybody here, don’t give up on your dream to own a house – we arrived to Australia with only 2 suitcases and a dog 2 years ago and now we own a house. So I’d say – anything is possible if you want it badly enough, just do your best and pray for success.
    Cheers!
    Chris

    Chris´s last blog post…What everyone should know about buying a house at auction (part 2)

  53. We bought a house we knew we could afford on one income, even though we had two at the time. It’s also a duplex that came with a built in renter. Not bad as he pays half our mortgage. It’s an old house in a historic neighborhood. Full of arches and character and beautiful wood floors. BUT, I will never buy a house this old (1930) again unless I have stacks of money to buy one that has been completely gutted and renovated. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. There is always something with an old house. Then, when you go to repair something…get ready, because they might find something else that needs to be totally replaced too.

    I am always telling my friends, particularly the ones who are cash strapped, to wait. Wait until you are really ready to take on the repairs and the costs of maintaining a house and yard. So many people forget about those costs, especially when shows on HGTV make it all so wonderfully appealing to own. I know I did.

    Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy owning my home. I do, most days. But then there are also those days when I really wish I didn’t have to plunk down more of my cash, that I could be saving for our bigger ‘plan’, on repairs or whatever.

    And, it would also be nice to move to a home that was a bit more suited to our lifestyle and laid out better. If we were renting, it would be a heck of a lot easier to just look for something else and go. But, when you are owning…a much more involved decision.

    Anyway…got off on a bit of a rant there…sorry. :)

    MB´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday

  54. WOW. I am very thankful for this article. We are currently staying in 1 room (kitchen inc, bathroom apart) apartment above a garage. Since the baby is born. It was very tough in the beginning and now that he is going to crawl – will be very hard too. My hubby’s friends are all very well off, big houses and so on. Now that we want to live overseas so that we can have a better lifestyle, they say we are leaving friends and family. I have been very jealous on their homes and have a tremendous need to settle down. Thank you for the encouragement. We keep on reminding ourselves that a whole family could have lived in our flat :)

  55. Have you seen Dave Ramsey’s new mansion in Nashville? It looks like quite a palace!

    http://www.coolsprings.com/news/dave-ramseys-house/

  56. Such a sensible approach to house ownership! I think I’ll be checking out the Financial university (and the others) to pass onto my website’s visitors so thanks for the links to the resources :)

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