That Time We Almost Impulse-Bought a House We Couldn’t Afford

By Jackie Beck   Updated 07/06/2020 at 1:12 pm

You know how sometimes something comes along that you absolutely love but can't afford? Yeah, that happened to us recently.You know how when you’re paying off debt (or in our case, when you’re DONE with debt) and something comes along that you absolutely love but can’t afford?

Yeah, that happened to us recently.

Except it was a HOUSE. If we’d had the cash and the stars aligned, we could very well have been on our way to owning it right now.

It’s a property we’ve admired for years, with so many things going for it. And this is the first time it’s come on the market since the early 1960s.

But we have one hard-and-fast rule: we can buy anything we want, as long as we already have the money in our hot little hands. No money, no buy-y.

And we were just a tad short. Like more than $200,000 short.

When you really want something…

When you really want something, it’s normal to try to find ways to get it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, getting creative is GOOD! As long as it doesn’t involve creative financing ;)

Getting (and staying!) out of debt is not about deprivation. It’s about using your money wisely and getting the things you want — without paying extra and losing your freedom in the process.

So naturally my husband and I tried to think of ways to make the house happen. And while we came up with a few ideas, none of them were ideal. In the end, it seemed better to just let the property go and hope someone else buys it that will love it.

But…

In between those two moments others suggested things like getting a mortgage or seeing if the owner would lend the difference.

After all, it would be an investment. Interest rates are very low! It’s good debt. But no, borrowing is not for us.

Plus, I don’t think it’s smart to pay close to $50,000 extra for a house that we don’t even need. Because even at a “great interest rate” of 3%, that’s what borrowing $200,000 for 15 years would cost. About 24% more. We have a perfectly good house already, one that we can make even nicer for a whole lot less.

When you live in a pay-with-money-you-already-have world, you’re still going to hear all about how helpful debt can be from folks who don’t live there with you.

Part of you might be tempted to rationalize away what you truly want in exchange for what you want right now.

The thing is, as Jen Knox wrote, “An intelligent person can rationalize anything, a wise person doesn’t try.”

Want to avoid rationalizing?

We’ve been completely out of debt for a few years now, and it’s been way longer than that since we borrowed money for anything, so it was relatively easy to not even consider a mortgage. We didn’t go down the rabbit hole of “investment! amazing opportunity!”.

We just remembered our old life instead. The one where we worried and stressed when we lost our jobs. The one where payments were a constant factor. The one where we never seemed to have enough.

I KNOW, deep in my heart, that I never want to go back to the risky world of debt. I never want to lose the freedom we have. Having a very cool property is not worth the high emotional and monetary price of debt. It’s just not. There’s no contest between that and our freedom.

But it used to be hard, especially if something felt urgent or like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We used to rationalize like all the time. We even felt proud of the great deals we got and the “smart” choices we were making by borrowing money. Looking back, I want to smack myself, but at the time it seemed to make sense.

So what changed?

First of all, we changed the way we saw the world. We focused on what we wanted most (freedom!) and on how becoming and then staying debt free could get us there.

We went from rationalizing away debt to regularly imagining and talking about (and now experiencing!) what our lives would be like when we had true financial independence.

We also gave ourselves a few rules to live by — rules that we made into habits that we continue to this day.


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A funny thing…

A funny thing will happen along the way as you begin to make new habits and choices. You’ll have less regret, and a greater sense of contentment.

One day, someone will suggest that you get a new whatchamacallit, and your first thought will be “Why? The one I have is just fine.” Or maybe, “What for? I don’t need one of those. I’m happy with what I have.”

So, about that house. Sure, it’d be great to have. Or maybe it wouldn’t. I absolutely will feel sad if someone razes it and turns the property into a bunch of condos or something, but on the flip side someone else might buy it and love it. How can we know any of those things? We can’t.

I do know one thing for a fact though: I’d regret living with the stress of debt. I’ve been there and hated it. And we like our current house.

Everything else is just a bunch of what-ifs and maybes.

So we’ll stick with what we know for sure: being debt free is awesome. Tell me when you get there too if you haven’t already. We can celebrate together!

One thought on “That Time We Almost Impulse-Bought a House We Couldn’t Afford

  1. I love your comment,
    “Having a very cool property is not worth the high emotional and monetary price of debt. It’s just not. There’s no contest between that and our freedom.” So incredibly true. We’d love a few more acres of land, but it’s not worth what it would cost for us right now.

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