Delaying Gratification for Dummies
January 13, 2019 11:51 AM   Subscribe

This was me. Your stories did their job-- I have elected not to buy a house... for the moment, while I build up my savings to handle the roof collapse/leaky basement/plumbing disaster that would assuredly befall me as a first-time buyer. What are some things to do to make it easier on myself while I look and prepare for buying, but do not buy (yet)?

Long story short, I ignored your advice for a short time and did spend a month or so looking around with a pre-approval in hand, with the intent to buy. Quickly realized that the desirable neighborhoods were out of my price range. Even if I did get lucky and score a home somewhere I'd actually like to live, chances are the home itself wouldn't be in the best shape. So, I have to wait and save some more money.

The only problem is, now I feel frustrated and trapped and sort of victimized. How do I get out of that mindset?

Some ideas I've had that are working to some extent:

- Cleaning up my apartment and throwing things out, or else setting aside things to donate or sell before the move.
- Setting a hard deadline for my roommate (a friend who has fallen on hard times and is not paying rent to live with me) to move out.

I need more of that energy though. How do I feel less deprived and more like this is a choice I am making for my own financial betterment, not something that's more or less been forced on me by the housing market, my own financial limitations, etc. In other words, how do I successfully delay gratification for the sake of a long-term goal?

Stories and examples of achieving long-term goals (whether financial or not) with discipline, willpower, and sound judgment, are welcome. How do you keep yourself going and stay motivated without giving in to bitterness or giving up entirely? Thanks in advance!
posted by coffeeand to Work & Money (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think both of your ideas are great - they improve your current living situation and also give you a sense of laying the groundwork for what you want to happen next.
What about working on developing skills that you will needs as a homeowner, especially ones that will allow you to do more of the work yourself.
- Are there projects for your current place that would also build your skills? Painting? Carpentry?
- Any local classes on how to do stuff?
- Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity on regular basis?
posted by metahawk at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, pay attention to your self talk about this situation and develop some new scripts. Feeling like a victim of the housing market and your own limitations is a lousy feeling. So, what is both true and also positive? I mean you could have gone ahead and bought a dubious house in a neighborhood you didn't want but instead of you are being mature and wise (yay, you!) and saving up for what you really want. By waiting, you are going to be able to move from OK situation you have now to a great one when you get your house - if you didn't wait you would be going from Ok to super stressed and possibly never get to great.
posted by metahawk at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Your ideas so far are great. I'm in the same boat as you - I could technically do a large-scale purchase, but I've decided to wait until there's more of a financial cushion. Things I've thought of (and am doing partially...)

* Really focusing on saving. There is currently a movement called FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) that has tons of savings ideas. Some of it is very extreme, but some makes sense
* Side hustles? It's again a trendy topic but looking into extra ways to make money will help you get where you want to go sooner. Possibly at the extent of your sanity however - it is a bit of a juggling act. But it will give you somewhere else to focus your energy.
* Watch a lot of home reno shows and youtube. One, to perhaps remind you of the minefield of potential disasters you've avoided, and two to prepare for eventual home ownership and the realities that exist within. Holmes on Homes reruns scared the bejezus out of me.
* Calculate how much you would be paying if you had bought the house. Mortgage payments, insurance, upkeep, extra utilities for a larger space, emergency fund contributions, etc etc. I'm going to assume it's more than whatever you're paying now for the studio. Sock that money away towards your home-fund as well now.
* Every time something in your rented place breaks or you have to call your landlord, for the time being be very appreciative of the fact that it's someone's else's problem and expense and not yours. Even if things aren't handled the way you would like them to be -- it's not your problem to fix. I really miss that from my renting days...

Good luck!
posted by cgg at 1:35 PM on January 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check around your local hardware stores, community centers, etc for classes in basic household repair. I've rented and owned houses for 20 years and the one unavoidable truth is: there's always something (and almost none of it is emergent enough for landlord intervention up until it becomes an emergency). Always. If it's not something that's actually broken it's something that needs routine maintenance, upkeep, prep for season change. Or it's something that could be made to look/function a little nicer, wish-list stuff, upgrades.

Bitterness is a choice you're making, too. The power to change your narrative is entirely in your hands here. Maybe get a workbook that does some 101-level CBT or ACT exercises if you need to level-up those skills. Owning a home is a privilege, not an entitlement, and living in a home you're not grateful for is actually a pretty miserable existence because, as I said, there's always something. The house owns you back, and it can feel like a real burden if you're expecting the fact of having a mortgage to provide satisfaction in and of itself.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:37 PM on January 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

I remember a while ago there was a couple that was getting out of debt, and blogging about it. They would have time-limited frugality challenges. I am not necessarily recommending publishing your life online, but they had regular celebrations of their progress. Do you have a savings goal? Can you make money saving decisions and put the money saved to savings? Added bonus of feeling virtuous for being frugal. Eg: I took packed lunches all this week, saving $x which brings me y days closer to achieving my goal.
posted by freethefeet at 1:42 PM on January 13, 2019

Use this time to learn what matters to you in a house. Look at friends' houses through that lens, and learn as much as you can about what you like and dislike. Look at houses for sale and learn to recognise the things that would become a nuisance or a big problem if you'd buy that house.

And yes, also learn the practical skills that are so useful to a home owner. That, too, will help you recognize and avoid pitfalls.

That way, you are preparing yourself for the time when you'll be able to buy, by becoming a better houseshopper and thus improving your chances of getting good value for money.

You are not deprived. You are taking care of future you, who deserves the best house you can possibly find and afford. You are investing. And you'll get to reap the sweet, sweet rewards. Keep that in mind.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:03 PM on January 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Use this time to learn what matters to you in a house. Look at friends' houses through that lens, and learn as much as you can about what you like and dislike. Look at houses for sale and learn to recognize the things that would become a nuisance or a big problem if you'd buy that house.

This is also extremely good advice. We were on a price point cusp, when we bought, that meant we were sifting through a lot of chaff to find some wheat, and per my husband's spreadsheet we saw over 100 houses over about 4 months, and that experience was INCREDIBLY enlightening. Quiz any friends you have who've shopped/bought in your target areas, talk to anyone you know whose work takes them into people's houses (and see if they need an assistant sometimes), talk to anyone you know who even drives around a lot of neighborhoods. Start refining your mental map of the areas you're looking to live, and collecting data points.

My husband and I are beginning to brainstorm our plan for our next move and we have a google doc we're just vomiting every wish and dealbreaker we can think of, and a LOT of those points are informed by that shopping experience. There's things that were dealbreakers once upon a time that are must-haves now, there's things that used to worry us that we aren't bothered about anymore, we're just much more informed now than we were the day we went to our first showing all those years ago.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2019

Yeah, I also suggest you spend the time going to tons of open houses. Get a sense of what the market is like in your area--and develop your eye to spot problems and your personal dealbreakers. (I really really wished I'd had a stronger sense of this when doing the home inspection on the house I bought). Also use the time to get a much more specific sense of what things cost in your area. Like, I'm obsessed with HGTV but the budgets they have on all of those home renovation shows are ludicrously low. So look at houses in your town and then look up the average cost of, say, a bathroom renovation in your town. Homeadvisor and Angie's List can be helpful for stuff like that. Also, r/homeimprovement has been fantastic at giving me a realistic sense of how much renovation or DIY cost in terms of time and money.

So distract yourself by becoming an expert in how much your future home could cost! (I also like fantasy shopping for new furniture that I won't be able to get for years and years, but that could just be me).
posted by TwoStride at 3:08 PM on January 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you have your eye on a few specific neighborhoods, one way you might pass some time is getting to know those neighborhoods a bit in different times of day or seasons, depending how long you’ll be waiting. We bought our house in winter and what I now know is that when we sell, it will almost certainly also have to be in winter, because due to our proximity to a local attraction, driving our street in the summer or late spring is an absolute nightmare. Had I seen this house on a summer Saturday afternoon, I probably would not have bought. You can give yourself the luxury of time to learn more about neighborhoods as well as houses.

It’s good that you’re saving up, but also don’t save so hard that you deprive yourself of everything nice while you wait. It’s good and okay to live your life now, as well as planning for your future. Plan some nice treats for yourself, maybe once a month or maybe when you reach certain savings milestones, whatever you think will work best.
posted by Stacey at 3:17 PM on January 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

work on improving credit, you'll get better interest & insurance rates when you do buy. Ironically the best way to improve your credit is buy a home.....
posted by patnok at 4:34 PM on January 13, 2019

Tis the season for home and garden shows that might be good educational opportunities. We went to one yesterday and now we're adding insulating the attic to the list from your original post. Thanks for checking back in.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:45 PM on January 13, 2019

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