Tortoise and the Hare: House Edition

Most of us are familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. Two unlikely competitors in a race to the finish line. But, as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race: the tortoise comes out ahead after slowly, deliberately, but consistently chugging along. The hare, on the other hand, started off decently strong but got a bit arrogant, takes a nap, and wakes up to find he’s lost the race. This tale helps illustrate the concepts of perseverance and consistency and how they can often be more effective in the long-run.

Unsurprisingly, this concept holds true in many areas of life; for example, personal finances. I often think about why consistency rather than quick spurts lead to long-term success. Consistency builds strong habits which become harder to break (such as being more frugal and saving money). Going for short-term gains and taking a nap can be thought of as spending money for things now using credit and loans, for example. Kristin and I will be purchasing a house later this year, and keeping the moral of the Tortoise and the Hare in mind will be important as we make our transition into our first home.

As younger generations grow older and some look at starting families, many of them are buying homes – even the ones that indulge in a little avocado toast every now and then. As home prices have been typically rising in the past few years and wages have remained relatively flat compared to the 70’s and 80’s, it’s not difficult to see that folks in the younger generation likely have more difficulty buying a home than their parents would have years ago. This problem is made worse by the higher amounts of student loan debt that many college-goers have to deal with once they’re out of school.

Still, buying a house can be affordable if you do it right – save up for a decent down payment, have the luxury of living in a relatively lower cost of living area, etc. But your mortgage payment isn’t the only thing that costs money, especially when you move into your first home. Here are a few things to look out for to make sure that you can afford to turn your house into a home where you can actually live and enjoy yourself.

  1. Fixes or changes like painting. Renovations can be pricey, but unless you can finance it for a very low amount (like rolling it into your mortgage) or pay cash for whatever changes you want, it may be better to wait and deal with these things over time.
  2. Tools and maintenance equipment. If you’re moving from an apartment, you’ll likely need some additional things you had never even considered before such as a lawn mower and/or a snowblower if you live in such a climate. Kristin and I will move when it’s unlikely we’ll need to mow the lawn more than a few times before winter kicks in, and so we may choose to delay the purchase of a lawn mower. On the other hand, stores will be looking to offload them at the end of the season so we might get lucky with sales. If we do purchase one, it’ll be with cash. I might even try to tough it out without a snow blower for one winter and borrow a neighbors/shovel, but that may be a bit too risky…
  3. Don’t forget the blinds. Yes, you read that right. If you’re building a house (something Kristin and I opted for in part due to the location and also because we’d rather have a new home versus tackle a renovation for the same cost – or potentially more), most new homes do not come with blinds. In our case, they don’t include gutters either, or, oddly, towel bars. These are all extra expenses that we’ll need to budget for that we can’t delay purchasing, unfortunately. Thankfully we knew about all of this stuff up front and have plenty of time to deal with it.
  4. Utility and cable costs. These will likely increase as you add things like trash collection, sewer, water, and heating/cooling a potentially larger space. If you have a roommate now and split the cable bill, you’ll have to foot that all yourself in a house unless you have roommates there too (which can be a good way to help pay down your mortgage quickly).

The big thing though? Furniture and decor can add up, fast. When you move from a one or two bedroom apartment into your first home, chances are pretty good that you will find yourself with much more room to spread out. Suddenly you realize that the pictures you had hanging on your wall just won’t cut it anymore, and you have extra bedrooms and living areas that need things like beds and chairs. It can be tempting to get this stuff all taken care of quickly. If it means that you’re dropping a huge amount of cash and depleting your savings; or worse, financing it on high interest credit cards – don’t.

It’s not uncommon to hear things like folks dropping tens of thousands of dollars in a week of shopping to fill up their house, but if doing so puts you in a financially difficult situation, it’s not worth it. Chances are if you buy a home you’ll likely live in it for quite a while. If you happen to find your “dream home”, you might end up being there for the rest of your life. You have a lot of time to get things to turn your house into a home, and part of the joy of finding those things, particularly furniture and other decor, is in the hunt.

Sure, it may seem a bit bare in the short-term, but spending is best done with the tortoise in mind; the hare will just cause your progress to take a “nap”.

Question:

What were some unexpected moving purchases (either home or apartment, doesn’t matter) that you’ve encountered in the past?

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4 Comments

  1. When we bought our first house, we had a room called The Lamp Room for the first 18 months. Because all we could afford to furnish it with were three second-hand / Ikea lamps.

    1. Haha this is amazing. Better to have a lamp room than go into debt to furnish it right away though! Especially if it was just kind of an extra room that you guys didn’t need to use immediately.

  2. Cleaning costs! Well likely need to clean your old place and new place or hire someone to do it. I have definitely failed at adding that into my moving budget in the past.

    1. Oh good one! I remember when we moved into a house when I was younger the basement hadn’t been cleaned out. Found a few bucks behind the dryer so it all worked out! Haha

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