Housing is the worst.

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I’ve only really had two financial goals since I graduated college. The first was to pay off my student loans. It took me four years to go in to debt and a little over two years to work my way out. As soon as my debts were paid, it was time to shift my focus towards goal two… Saving.

Over the last year and a half Girl Ninja and I have made great strides towards our goal of a $100,000 down payment. But today, really more like the last few months, as we inch closer and closer to achieving that goal I’m becoming less excited about it. Instead of being jazzed about buying a house, I’m starting to think it’s actually the worst thing in the world. Yes, the world!

How do I go from loving the idea of home ownership one minute, to completely despising it the next? No, I don’t have bipolar disorder (at least I don’t think I do). Instead, I’ve been thinking about how limiting housing really is — notice I said “housing” because let’s get real, renting has some serious downsides too.

Even though Girl Ninja and I have a six figure combined income, I can’t help but feel like we don’t make enough. Do you know how disturbing that is? I mean, I would NEVER complain that we don’t make enough money (because I know we make plenty), but somehow I convince myself that “if only we made a little more” life would somehow become increasingly easier. Yuck.

Girl Ninja is 24. I’m 26. We are in the “prime” of our life; still relatively new to marriage, young in our careers, no children (at least none that I know of), and we have over $60,000 in the bank. WHY AREN’T WE TRAVELING THE WORLD? Oh that’s right, we are saving for a 20% down payment. We’ve decided we’d rather bust our butts for two years saving as much as possible, so that one day we can give the majority of our savings to a complete stranger via a down payment. That depresses me.

If I wasn’t such a wimp, I’d have us both quit our jobs so we could spend the next six months of our lives, and probably $20,000 of our savings, traveling the world. CAN YOU IMAGINE?! I’d get to spend every moment of my day with my best friend. We’d learn a ton about ourselves and what the world has to offer. The American Dream says I should buy a house as soon as I’m financially able, after all “It’s the responsible thing to do.”

Meh, responsibility is overrated. I have the rest of my life to buy a house. I only get to be a twenty-something, kid free, newlywed for a few more years.

71 thoughts on “Housing is the worst.”

  1. Speaking as a 37 year old, now single mother of 2 who will never have an opportunity like what you have, I say GO! Without a moments hesitation, GO. See the world. Enjoy each other before kids and houses and life sucks you dry. (Ok not really dry but it will be different.).

    Just after I graduated college I had plans to move to AZ. I hated Ohio, still do. But I also “lack the cajones” for something that big. It’s probably my #3 regret it life. I wish I had done something young and fun when I was young.

    If you can’t take the whole $20,000 then take 1/2 and scale down to a few countries that you really want to see. You have plenty of time to buy a house and have kids. I actually think waiting until you are about 30 or so to have kids would be optimal.

  2. You guys save what, five grand a month? I’ve never seen anyone who’s able to do that especially at your age complain so much! So that delays your home purchase by four months? Or eight months if my numbers are off? Go for it. Or even if you don’t quit your job, take a few 2-3 week vacations and see parts of the world.

    • Would you want to do something like this? Have you? Easier said then done. I don’t mean to complain, really I don’t. Sorry for expressing personal frustrations (about myself) on my blog? I’d understand where you are coming from if I was complaining that we don’t make enough, or that we can’t save enough.

      • Don’t take my comment the wrong way. I understand the logistical barriers involved, but as a 37 year old guy, trust me when I say that the barriers will just get more plentiful, not less, so if you really have any seriousness about such a thing, don’t wait.

      • Right – I totally agree with money beagle, which is why a house hasn’t really made it very far on my radar yet but travel has. YES, I would want to. NO, I haven’t. Yes, I’m really seriously thinking about how to make something like this work next summer. (not around the world, just 4-8 weeks).

        It’s OK if you’d rather have your house more quickly or money in the bank, that’s OK too. But remember, it’s a decision, and it is yours (and girl ninjas!) to make! no one is forcing you to be “responsible” just yet. 🙂

    • I should also clarify we aren’t banking anywhere near $5,000 a month. You probably think that because there was a period of time (March to July) that we saved ridiculous amounts. But that was because we had no rent or utility bills during that time. GN received a $6,000 back payment from the San Diego school district she was owed. I traveled to Germany for work and made awesome money. So yes, we banked mad skrilla for a few months, but now that we are paying rent again and girl ninja taking a $10k paycut we aren’t anywhere near where we were (like less than 50%). Not complaining at all. Just clarifying.

  3. I would definitely travel the world instead of buying a house. We bought a house too young (at 20) because we reeeaaalllly needed a place to live. We regret buying it because we would rather travel.

  4. My wife had a boss who once said… If you have a stable job and no kids, there really is no excuse to leave the country once a year… We have done that and still manage to save 30% of our income. I echo what money beagle said, take two – three weeks off (sounds like you are a government employee so you should have plenty of vacation and sick time built up). Go oversees and enjoy it.

    Once the little ones come along it gets tougher to travel abroad as much (so I have been told, I won’t find out until later this year that it is most likely true).

    Also if you are having second thoughts about home ownership, keep renting and saving. Who knows, maybe you’ll have enough saved to pay cash for a nice home!

  5. I feel the exact same way about the income – I make plenty of money to get by, but always have that thought in the back of my head that I could reach my goals quicker/easier if I made a little more.

  6. Dude, I’ve been all through Europe, to Costa Rica, I’m going to Mexico in April, and there will definitely be more. And all of this without quitting my job. I’ve just made traveling (in 1-3 week spurts) a priority over saving more money for a house and taking 3 day weekends that waste vacation days.

    Take 2-3 weeks off in the summer and go somewhere awesome. Sure, you might not have a ton of vacation time around Christmas, but it’ll be worth it.

  7. This is exactly how I feel. I hate feeling like I need to do the responsible thing all the time. I know we should be smart with our money and live within means, but that doesnt mean we have to rush to buy a house. Buying a house is a lifetime decision, one that you have to live with for 10-15 years. You have to pick a location and stay there forever if you want to make it worth it. Lets just say I am in no rush to purchase.

    I am in a rush to travel. I want to travel before I have to settle down. I want to experience more of the world, and less of america. One nice perk about your job is that you get to travel to other parts of the world and experience other cultures. The sucky thing is you can’t take your girl along with you.

  8. Balance. Yin and Yang. It’s what makes personal finance interesting to me. To see how others prioritize “limited” incomes. I’m going to be 40 this year and I’m truly having that mid-life crisis. I don’t hesitate as much as I used to when it comes to purchasing luxuries. If you think life is relatively difficult now wait till you buy a house, aka money pit, and/or have children, aka money pits 🙂

  9. Wait…. why can’t you travel and have a house? Maybe I’m just missing something, but $100k is not a just a 20% down-payment here in Seattle… I’m not sure why buying a house means you can’t travel and have somewhere to come back to when you’re done?

    • Say we buy a $300,000 house. That’s $60K down. Leaves us with $40K. But last time I checked houses don’t come furnished. Let’s say another $10K to furnish the whole joint. Now we have $30K. Which, for us, becomes untouchable because we need to keep cash for emergencies.

      • I totally agree with keeping the emergency fund, but I mean to say that post-buying-a-house it doesn’t seem as if you will be in dire straights (having your $30k remaining in the E-Fund), and I’m not sure if it’s true or not but one commenter above mentioned something about you putting away $5k / month… it seems like post-house it should be possible to travel a bit before returning to super-saver mode. I just don’t see the situation totally as an either/or type deal.

      • Let me reiterate “There is more to a rich life than money in the bank”. I’ve struggled with the decision to live overseas and have made the move. You can travel pretty cheaply so money shouldn’t be a factor, especially if you are only talking one or two months. Here in Bangkok we could live pretty well for almost a year (10 months) on the $20,000 you anticipate spending on travel and contrary to what people say Thailand (esp Bangkok) is not all that cheap anymore thanks to the weak dollar and the U.S. exportation of inflation.

        I still say go for it now while you are young. When you are older you will have regrets, but I doubt one of them would be that you took the time and money to see the world when you were young.

      • 10K for furniture! That doesn’t sound very frugal. You don’t NEED to fill your house with new furniture right away. Estate sales are awesome for furniture. Even thrift stores. When we bought our home, family and friends gave us their extra furniture.

        • I may be frugal, but I like nice things. Not gonna spend a crapton on a new place and fill it with junky IKEA furniture. It would be like buying 60″ flat screen TV and then deciding to stick with a VHS player instead of a DVD player. Haha. Furniture aint cheap.

          • I can understand that. I just recommend giving estate sales and auctions a chance. They are filled with antiques and modern furniture at a fraction of what you’d pay new. I intend to refurnish my entire house when my kids are 18 and moved out.


      • it is perfectly acceptable to buy a house and leave much of it empty until you can afford to furnish it. Frankly, I have never understood the idea that if you buy a house, you have to immediately go out and fill it with new furniture. You have a few things now, just add bit by bit. So your current stuff may a be a little worn or scratched, who cares.

        Or you could be like this guy:

  10. It’s only been in the last 5 years that Hubby and I are able to take 1 trip a year out of Canada (to the US); we’re DINKS pulling in almost 6 figures… yes, we have a little debt that we’re working towards paying off, yes we have a mortgage, but taking a vacation together is something that we really enjoy. We forego birthday presents in Aug. and Sept. and put our money towards a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary in October. Like Stacking Cash said, it’s all about balance. Hubby and I work our butts off… a little vacay once a year is financially doable and good for our souls.

    My Mom offered to celebrate our mini-milestone birthdays this year (she was 65 on Jan. 2; I’ll be 45 Aug. 2) by taking me away on a vaction…. TO PARIS!! Only expenses I have to worry about is spending money; I’ll be saving my loonies (to turn into Euros) like a fiend for the next 6 weeks, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m not passing up. Luckily, both Mom and I are fluent in French and English 😉


  11. I’m a regular visitor. and a little older than you (not saying how much) But my husband and I were very young when we married and we blew it…..we were so busy trying to be adults that we wasted those precious non kid years not having fun. True we were young and poor, but now that we make a good living we also have young kids….which makes travel hard and any extra income goes to collage fund, activities, food etc…. we often joke that if we could go back and talk to our 20year old selves we’d tell them to HAVE FUN!!!!

  12. The time to make crazy (well crazy to you) decisions is now. You are doing well. Home ownership will always be there. The world as we know it may not be. Ancient ruins are falling apart all over the world. Take some time and go on a few adventures while you are young and able IF that is what you really want.
    In words of the great Lucille Ball “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

  13. Well we did not buy our first house until later and I do not regret that. We took good family vacations which is time I will always treasure and did lot’s of things that we could not have done.

    I think the sub idea is a great one for GN and I am sure the 2 of you could do both travel and home ownership – you are a little how you say driven……

  14. You and GN are earning more than respectable salaries, you have more than adequate cash and retirement savings for your ages, you have no debt, and you lack in no way for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, or conveniences.

    Don’t give into greed, or the fallacy that if you just had “more” you would be happier. Because if you do get “more,” you’ll still want “more” beyond that, and then there’s no limit. But past a certain point there are diminishing returns, and if you don’t use your money — for travel, art, theater, sporting events, concerts, a car, or whatever — you become miserable too because you’re not living.

    You want to see something of the world? Then just do it. You don’t need to stay in 5-star hotels or eat only at 5-star restaurants. Two people can still spend a week or 10 days in Europe for $5K. You don’t want a house just now? Then continue to rent. Housing prices are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, and there are many advantages to renting (geographical flexibility, included maintenance, freedom from debt) that are not sufficiently emphasized by proponents of the “American Dream.” Or buy a starter condo, which you might get for $150K. I bought mine 20 years ago for under $100K, and while some of my friends are busting their guts to make $3000 mortgage payments, I’m paying a fraction of that amount.

    Ten-fifteen years ago, everyone just charged up a storm and lived high without thinking about tomorrow. This was obviously a bad move, but today some of you have gone to the opposite extreme — so fearful of spending money that you flagellate yourselves whenever you take on an expense. You can both save and spend.

  15. Try to take a balanced approach. Maybe you can save a fraction less for your downpayment, and put some money aside for travel as well. I’m 27 and DH is 32, we have an almost 5 yr old, and are having a second child in May. We make 6 figure salary and just today we are planning to refinance our mortgate and pay it off in about 7 years, while at the same time saving for a trip to Croatia next year (and not on a super tight budget, we want to enjoy it). So you can do both. I am sort of like you, part of me wanted to put ALL our money towards the morgage and pay it off in less than 5 years, but I’m 27, I should have some fun too! So nothing wrong with 7 years mortgage and a nice, fat trip once a year too. Mind you that’s just our BIG trip, we do driving trips to other provinces and the US too, on a much smaller budget. So you can have both worlds if you plan it out a bit. Have fun! Enjoy life, and enjoy being debt free with savings and a comfortable life. You’ve done the hard work to get there.

  16. You complain too much, about everything!! jajajaja You’re currently on a business trip and you don’t even have to pay it. So stop complaining and do something instead. Talk is cheap, if you won’t do it why bother worrying about it.

    I traveled for one year before being a full time employee so if you wanna do it I don’t see why you can’t. Good luck. 😀

  17. I completely understand about the making 6 figures and still feeling like it isn’t really enough. Seattle will do that to a person. Maybe you guys don’t take a whole 2 years off, but the summer that your lovely wife has off anyway and go traveling for that time. Also you are missing all of the snow.

  18. I am in THE EXACT SAME SPOT. One day I think that home ownership is the most logical step for us. Then the next day I think we (Husband and I) should just take all our savings and use it to move to New York where there is a bigger market for both or our careers.

    A big part of me thinks that home ownership isn’t the best investment for us overall anyway. With our lifestyle, lack of kids and preference to live in the absolute heart of cities where small studio condos are $350,000 to start–I just don’t see how buying is beneficial. My rent is half what my mortgage would be, without the cost of repairs/upkeep and association fees a condo requires.

    I’m trying to break through the “What you are supposed to do next” mold and just really pick what is right for US in the long term.

  19. If you can swing it, take the time (+ $) and go…travel…see things. As you move on into home ownership and parenthood and the joys of aging, things get busier and that feeling of ‘never making enough’ seems to be accentuated. A little adventure puts a spring in your step.

  20. Ninja – as others have said: Just do it and stop whining! 🙂

    Larry – your mother and Matthew are correct. You always have good insight and appear knowledgeable on a variety of topics.

  21. I’m 26 and for some reason it’s bedazzled (yes, I said bedazzled) in our brains that the proper order of life is go to college, graduate, get a job, get married, buy a house and have some babies!

    We’ll at 26, aside from graduating and getting a 9-5, I haven’t gotten married (although I’m still very much in love and like with my high school sweetheart), no babies and no house/mortgage.

    I’m taking it slow, because important and large decisions like houses and babies should be well-planned and thought out.

    You’re thinking in the extremes though! Don’t buy the house if you’re not ready and no don’t quit your job and become a nomad. I think you and GN are too practical to become nomads.

    But continue saving for that down payment and I BEG YOU go on trips and enjoy the fruits of both of your labors please and thanks!

  22. When I graduated college I was 21, and I made a deal to myself that I would stop waitressing and get a 9-5 job…just as soon as I took a month long trip to Europe. I wanted to backpack, be stinky and see a beautiful part of the world before I took on responsibility. My then-boyfriend/now-husband was 26, and I told him I was going with or without him. He, of course, said “Awesome! When are we leaving?”
    It cost us between $3-4K to travel through England, France and Italy for a little over a month. That included tickets, trains, food, etc. It was the best experience of my life.
    Now we’re married and have 1.5 kids and a mortgage. We wish we had done another trip like that before it became impossible, but at the same time we are happy we took the time to do that while we could. We look forward to traveling with the kids and without the kids when they go off to college (my baby is only 18 months old, so that’s very far away), but nothing compares to the freedom of wandering the canals of Venice at 2am as a young adult in love.
    Long story short, go for it!

  23. My wife and I took our first trip (yr0 on our honeymoon to Italy, second (yr1) trip to Spain and Portugal, (yr2) had a baby, then (yr3) to Greece and turkey, another trip (yr4) to Germany/Poland/ Austria/Czech/Hungary and are now (yr5) settled bc baby #2 is coming any day now. When we had baby #1 my wife stayed home for 6 months. At that time we realized we could live off my income alone. After our last trip, we decided to pay off our house. T-40 months as of last January. We could’ve done it by now if we didnt travel so much, but WE DO NOT REGRET IT ONE BIT! Paying off this house however is a little tougher. Life keeps happening and that inital goal date for the mortgage payoff keeps slipping further and further away. Ultimate goal is we’ll get it done within 10 years even if my wife decides to stay at home. She’s 25+5 and I’m 29.

  24. I spent a lot of money in my twenties on travel, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Though my finances would be looking slightly better if I’d saved that money, it’s not enough for me to say I wish I had never spent it. I’m also glad that I did it then, because it’s pretty much impossible to do now with a mortgage, kids, etc.

    Even if it’s not six months, maybe just two weeks would be enough? I think it’s worth a shot.

  25. To add to my last comment, guess where my spent my money (practically all of it) in my twenties, traveling! I have done short trips such as two days to longer ones such as just over 3 weeks. I intend to always make traveling one of my top saving goals!

  26. Also, I have to wonder what the hell kind of house are you buying that 100k is the down payment. Shouldn’t you buy something a bit more reasonably priced? Or are you just making a very large down payment?

  27. Seriously, do it. Before you have kids. Take a month or two off work and just enjoy the freedom you two have now. I wish I could have done that with my wife, but we’re never alone anymore 🙂

  28. I understand your dilemma. I’m approaching a summer of questionable plans and not sure what to do with it, but I am pretty sure it is the last such questionable summer I will have for a long time. I could do the same thing I will have to do for the next many summers, and work the whole thing and make money, or play hooky, make nothing, dip into savings, and go somewhere. Still not sure what to do.

    I will say that the other commenters have a point – when you have kids, it can be much more expensive to travel and have specific types of experiences. I was at Vail last week, and the trail map said a child all-day ski school lesson is $160, and $180 with a ticket. My eyes about popped out of my skull. So if you want to ditch the kids and get off the bunny hill for a little bit, be prepared to pay through the nose. That is not an appealing prospect for the future – I’m glad I only have to try to find ski deals for me right now!

      • I said nothing about *having* to have kids.

        Ninja has stated that he and GN want kids in the future and are planning on that particualar eventuality, and that he also likes to ski. Most people I know who ski when they are young, barring physical injuries, will teach it to their kids – some themselves, some through lessons, so I thought it was relevant. It certainly doesn’t have to be that expensive, but I was amazed that the school can charge that much and people pay it.

        • I’ve seen nothing in this blog that suggests that Ninja likes kids, enjoys being around kids, or has any burning desire to parent. Not to be disrespectful at all but I hope he’s really thought this through and thought about what it will mean to sacrifice possibly the rest of his life for a new person that he chooses to bring into the world. Many people think that’s just what people do and don’t really think it all the way through and imagine every possibility, like a child born with a disability, an adult child living at home at age 30, or any number of risky outcomes that come with having a child. Having more than one child makes it more likely to happen. Let alone the possibility of having kids each with severe challenges and problems. There is a great deal of heartbreak that can come with being a parent. I hope Ninja is really equal to such a task. I commend people that really know with all their heart that such a thing is what they want; I can surely say I do not and am very grateful to have realized that at a very young age.

    • Exactly, have to do what makes both happy. If that means cutting back a little bit in saving for a downpayment and putting that money into a vacation fund, as long as it makes you happy and grow together then its a good idea.

  29. If it was me the biggest concern I would have is whether or not you can return to your jobs…if that’s important to you of course.

    That being said, I would encourage you to just do this. Don’t over think it and freeze yourself. You are young with no kids and a substantial income and savings, you won’t find a better time than now to explore the world. In addition, the bond between you and GN will become much stronger and I’m willing to bet that is worth WAY more than $20k. There is more to a rich life than money in the bank as you will come to realize more and more I think, especially if you take this time to travel and learn more about the world and yourselves.

    I know it might seem scary or irresponsible, but truly it is an experience everyone should have.

    Just to give some background on where my thoughts come from, I am 44 years old with a 19 month old daughter and 8 months ago my wife and I quit our jobs, sold everything and moved to Thailand. We make probably 1/3 of what we made in the U.S. and are probably 4 times happy here. Sure there are stressful moments and I think the future is more unclear since we’ve made the move, but I expect that to improve as we settle in more. The most important thing though is that we did it. 5 years of saving and planning and still everyone was shocked because responsible people just don’t do such a thing. My question is why can’t you be responsible AND enjoy your life? Oh, and if you finally decide to jump in with both feet give me a holler when you get to Bangkok.

  30. I agree with those who say “Go now, while you have more mobility.” Yes, you can travel a week or two at a time but the freedom to go for three weeks or a month — or more — means you can linger in places you wind up loving.
    If you keep stashing cash at this rate you’ll still be able to make a sizable down payment. Take $20k and live a little, already. Note that I say this as a 54-year-old who’s really enjoying the chance to pick up and go whenever she wants. I might have enjoyed it even more at 20, but I was a broke single mom at that point.
    And if you decide not to do that? You could always hire me to house-sit during those one- and two-week vacations. You’d get the friends and family discount. 😉

  31. Pull the trigger little doode.

    You dont want to wake up one day in a few years and realized you had a golden oppurtunity and squandered it. You can very easily get to your 100k goal and still have a vacation fund set up on the side. i put 75$ aside a week for my fiance and I to travel/vacation. I still had 20% down for my house, furnish it, make repairs, and have an emergency fund all set up too.

    For the past 10 years about 10-14 of my close buddies would get away and have a guy weekend. Gradually over the course some guys would drop out and miss one, but a solid 4 of us always made it to the event. In the past year just about everyone of us has gotten married or engaged and there was real fear that this years event may not have happened. I put out an email saying that ourselves from 10 years ago would be kicking the crap out of us for not doing it and taking the easy way out.

    This year was the best one since the 1st.

  32. One more thing, these interest rates are low and should be low for next few months or even years, so dont make that the issue. The money you would save in interest now at 4% and under compared to 6% or higher pre 2008 cover the trip hand over fist.

  33. Ninja,
    I recently read this great article in the Chicago Tribune – top places Americans retire abroad. It went on to talk about cost of living in these different countries, even health care. I loved it. For the cost of our 12 day Japan vacation ($7000) we could live for a year in ___. Yeah, I’ll have to find the article. Point is there are cheap vacation possibilities.

    Have you heard of…
    http://www.homeexchange.com/ – There are a few of these type of sites.
    Backpacking or camping

  34. I think it’s super-awesome that you guys are so fiscally responsible and so far ahead of the game, so to speak. (I’m 28 and not in nearly as good shape.) That being said, I’m leaving to travel the world in a few months, so I’m firmly on the DO IT side of things here… You have the rest of your life to buy a house. You’re only young once. I think the American Dream is strongly overrated. Plus, if you go read enough travel bloggers, you could probably do it on less than $20K and still pull in some money from this site while you’re gone…. *nudge, nudge*

  35. Another thought – why not get PAID to travel instead of paying? You obviously can get short-term work overseas – why not try to get a longer term contract and get paid to live overseas for awhile? There are international schools all over the world so you wife could probably teach as well. And you get free housing, so you can really ramp up the savings. Yes, you work hard while you’re there, but you’re also closer to really incredible travel opportunities.
    My husband and I have worked overseas for 15 years and are now raising 3 kids overseas – the lifestyle is really great, the work is rewarding and we’ll have enough saved to retire comfortably.

  36. forgot to mention – Peace Corps? Other volunteer opportunities that allow you to work and travel overseas without touching your savings?

  37. You could always travel and teach English, meaning you wouldn’t have to touch as much of your savings, say 10k as opposed to 20k. Ask for a year sabbatical from your job. You never know, they might say yes.

    Don’t you think you’ll regret not traveling when you’re older?

  38. OK, this is pretty much how I feel everyday. “Must pay off debt, work hard, be responsible, build passive income” and then the other side jumps in like a spider monkey “I hate this! Let’s get into more debt! Let’s get out of here! Screw responsibility!” I would love to travel the world with my boyfriend. He’s my best friend, he’s awesome, he’s amazing. But we both did a lot of fun stuff before we decided to settle down and work hard, which we’ve been doing for almost 2 years. So now we are in work mode and we still have fun together. Even though are still so many places we will explore together, those things are on hold while we discover this other side of life (the responsible, boring side) and learn to save and pay off all our debt. Except it hasn’t been that boring after all!

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