There are many super helpful calculators and formulas and thoughtful resources to help you determine how much house you can afford—fair warning—this is not one of those articles. This is more of a love story.
Because sometimes you just know what you want and quarantine makes you delusional enough to go for it.
So, here is an account of my recent house buying by the numbers. Just kidding, there will be very little to no numbers, we’re in feelings territory now, people.
Welcome to Feelings Territory
I had no intention of moving. I loved my house. I even had an ambitious (and largely aspirational, but still!) goal and quasi-plan to pay off my house by the time my second grade daughter was done with junior high. Wouldn’t YNAB be proud?
Suddenly—although the days were l-o-n-g so really it was more of a creeping sensation—I felt so differently about so many things. I felt removed, even from the people that lived right around the corner. Friendships seemed to shift and wean and when everything came to a crashing halt, it became clear that so much of the fullness of our lives was just noise. And although I deeply believe that God intended children to go to school all day, every day, the extra time we had together was really special in a lot of ways.
I Became Obsessed With Moving
Maybe it was this uprootedness…maybe I needed a distraction…I don’t really know, but kind of overnight I became obsessed with moving. I wanted a bigger yard. I wanted a house that I could really make my own. I was itchy for a change.
I logged Olympic-training style hours on Zillow. We did drive-bys. We walked neighborhoods. I crunched numbers.
And Then, We Found It
One day, much sooner than expected really, I found it. (Actually, my mom would want you to know she found it and sent it to me. Thanks, Mom!) The yard was absolutely amazing. It was an older home on a huge lot in a great location. It would be a project, but quarantine also illuminated that my only hobbies are touching my face, eating out, and decorating my house, so maybe I needed that renovation project?
But It Was Expensive
I live in California. And if you know anything about California, you know 1) there is lots of sunshine 2) there are lots of wildfires and 3) the houses here are really, really expensive. With this new house, it was not going to be paid off early. Not even a little bit.
I wasn’t going to get bonus points with any personal finance gurus for this one. This choice wouldn’t fast track me toward retirement or help me achieve any major goals, except that my goals themselves were what I started to question.
I Had Always Wanted to Pay Off My House Early
Paying off my house had been the ultimate goal for me after going through a divorce a few years ago. I was so unsure of how I would do it on my own and what our future held, I think paying off the house represented a kind of ultimate security I longed for. Except once I really stopped to think about it, I wasn’t that same person anymore.
I was no longer worried about how I would survive on my own, because I was happier than I had ever been. I wasn’t insecure about our future, because I was confident the kids and I could roll with the punches. We were happy and had built a new life that I loved. I found myself most motivated by making memories with the kids. With this new calculation, the new house made sense.
I Realized My Priorities Had Changed
I don’t budget just so I can sit on the largest pile of money possible. I budget so I can focus my money toward the things that matter most to me. I budget so my money can be stretched further and go farther and be enjoyed more completely.
So, me and my budget, bought the house. And it is a project and not a day goes by without the kids and I acknowledging how lucky we are to live in this spot.
When an entire Saturday goes by playing outside and building a fort in the yard and no one asks about screen time because we are fully engaged in other things, I know I did the right thing.
Money + Priorities Aligning is Magical
The moral of the story? Living a life that truly reflects your priorities feels amazing. Having enough control of your money to be able to shift things around and pursue what you want, as life changes and you change, is a gift. Living by a budget doesn’t always mean choosing the least expensive option, sometimes it means being able to make other sacrifices in order to get the big yard.
Thank you quarantine and my budget for helping me step boldly into the next step. We’re forever grateful.
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