Home vs Traffic

We haven’t even decided how big of a home we want, which I would think would influence our property choice. So we have a lot of decisions ahead.  What we do know is that we would like to be in the city of Houston. By “we” I really mean I really want to be in the city. Nincol originally wanted to be out in the country. After I convinced him that it would be not as good because of Houston traffic every day, he came to see the light. If you don’t know, Houston traffic is a nightmare. You are just sitting there, wasting your life on the freeway. It is like the “Doctor Who” episode Gridlock. People are born, live, and die on the freeway. Welcome to Houston traffic.

On the weekends, I can make it from my apartment to my job or vice versa in about 10-15 minutes. On the weekdays, it will take me 20-30 minutes to get to work and 30-50 minutes to get home. We actually moved closer to my job. I just to live 12 miles away from work, and it would take an average of an hour and a half. If I was a more confident cyclist (and not 100% positive that I would be hit by a truck), I would have biked to work.

As of March 24, 2016, TomTom listed Houston 11th most traffic-clogged city in the nation. I don’t want to spend my life in traffic to pay for a house over the next 30 years.


Home vs Car savings

I have read a few book about debt and what to do about it. I have read Suze Orman’s “The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke” as well as Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.” Here is a combo cliff notes version: The easiest way to get out of debt is to not get in it. Sounds simple enough. Don’t spend money you don’t have (duh). In theory, this makes total sense. Practice is much harder. (I am going to skip over gender pay inequality, racial and other current socioeconomic issues in the US in general. That is a whole other post for another day.) I will use my own life as an example.

I am incredibly fortunate to have parents who were able to take on the full responsibility for my higher education and housing. I worked in a market and as a mentor and was able to pay for my own food and going out. I understand majority of my peers are/were not in the same situation as I was. For me, buying a car was the first time my name had debt. I have been saving for a car for the better part of a decade. I did a ton of research on what brand I would like, what model, and new vs. pre-owned. I am currently paying off my pre-owned Honda CR-V.  My goal for this is two years from purchase, which means August of this year. I saved up several thousand dollars to make a down payment of more than half of the car. Although I knew that I wanted this car (and needed a vehicle) neither Orman nor Ramesy recommended this path. They would suggest that I buy a cheaper car and pay it off right away. I spent a few years finding the “right” car for me and focused on affordability, safety features, gas efficiency, etc. I do not regret my decision*, but in order to pay my car off in two years, this means I don’t have a ton of money to put into “home” savings.

Trying to balance paying off a car, paying rent, saving in my 401k, grocery shopping, occasionally eating out/maintaining a semblance of a social life makes it hard to save up for a forever home. I don’t think that I spend a ton of money on nonessential things. We don’t have cable, instead we use PlayStation Vue and Netflix. I don’t go to the movies unless I am dying to see what is playing. I do tend to eat out or get to-go food more than I probably should. I am human. I love food. I am too lazy to cook and clean dishes/pots/pans. Sue me. I know that in the near future I will need to change up my habits a bit, but right now I am getting by. I don’t feel like I am living off my credit card or paycheck to paycheck, but I don’t have a ton of cushion.

My personal financial goals:

  • Pay off my car
    • Get new tires for said car
  • Save six months’ salary (just in case)
  • Save for a house (either tiny or small)

So … that’s where I’m at in life.


*I know this is a soccer mom car. I honestly didn’t realize it until I was driving around and noticed majority of the other CR-V drivers had a mom haircut and a couple of kids in the back. I, mostly, do not regret getting this car. It was a life saver when Nincol and I were moving into our current apartment and we have taken it to the drive-in with blankets in the back and the trunk popped.

Home vs Debt

A 30 year mortgage sounds like someone saying, “Hey Kate, do you want to be my indentured servant for the next few decades?” To quote Randy from “American Idol”, “Yeah… that’s gonna be a no from me dawg.” I want to be able to travel and live my life and not worry about being kicked out of my home if we fall on hard times financially. Growing up through the recession has impacted my view point. People were not working for months or years. When you could get a job, it wasn’t usually something you wanted to do and was not well paying but you had to take it because you needed the money. I went to school, got a degree, and then it took a while to find a job. Even though this was towards the end of the recession, I was still feeling the impact of years of economic instability.

I ended up working at a third party health and benefits call center where my older brother found a job. Honestly, it was a bit of a blessing in disguise. It was where I met Nincol. It was where I learned what “benefits” were. It was where I discovered the importance of saving and investing money while working. It was where I became acutely aware of how many people were not saving enough or anything at all. It was where I was screamed at and threatened because someone needed money, but didn’t meet IRS guidelines to take funds out of their account. It was where reality hit me in the face. I didn’t want to end up like the 72 year old who was working because otherwise, he couldn’t afford to buy groceries. I did not want to live in debt.

I want to live, explore, and see the world. I know that a tiny or small home is not for everyone, but it is for us. We just have to figure out a few details like where we are going to put it, how much we plan to spend, how it will affect our lives in terms of downsizing, when we want to move in, how small of a home can we happily live in. You know, tiny details like that. (Help me.)

Home vs Reality (TV)

Nincol and I constantly weigh our options. We can’t decide if it would be absolutely amazing or a living nightmare to live in half of our current space. In order to make an informed decision, we have done what any responsible adult would do. We ask the TV for answers (Adulting 101: When in doubt, find someone who seems to know what they are talking about. I don’t really know what the next Adulting class is, so I am stuck in this stage indefinitely). Not sure if you have heard of a little channel call HGTV. It is literally packed with shows about buying, fixing up/restoring, selling, and transforming a house into a very different home. Nincol and I have watched A LOT of HGTV; “Tiny House Hunters”, “Tiny House, Big Living”, and pretty much every single episode of “Property Brother” and “Fixer Upper” because, you know, those houses look bomb at the end.

There is a slightly difference between reality and TV. Ex: Nincol and I will not have a good-looking host(ess) or contractor that has publicly proven for the past decade that they will not leave us high and dry. Family members have told me horror stories about contractors botching job, taking money and not showing up, saying it will take one week and it ends up taking a month, etc. This terrifies me.

I try to be the calm cool person. I am always sweet to the girl who answers the phone at the Chinese place (so much so that she knows me by name and order). I usually try to complement someone when I see them doing a good job because I know more often than not, people only complain about one another and fail to recognize when someone does something right. I say “Thank you, citizen” and give a wave when a car lets me in the lane in front of them. I always try to see the situation from someone else’s point of view. Maybe the person who just cut across four lanes of traffic and right in front of me really needs to go to the restroom. Maybe the guy at Starbucks is heartbroken and his mind is on that and that was the reason he messed up my order.

I try to be an understanding person, but this is not a coffee. This place will be my home, not just the 30th house someone built this year. This will mean something to me. Will I be calm if someone botches the tile work? Will I still be understanding if the cabinets are not hung straight? Will I consider the day someone has had if they keep me waiting for hours? Will I revert to full on bitch mode and ask for someone’s supervisor to complain?

Mentally, I think Nincol and I both understand that building a house, no matter how small, will be time-consuming. Even though it will, most likely, not be my physical hands doing the carpentry (thank god for that, I shouldn’t be trusted with a nail gun) we will still need to pick the design, theme, finishes, etc. From watching waaaaay to many TV shows, we also know that building a house will be a massive monetary hit. We know we will likely run into some issue and something will cost more than we budgeted. We are prepared to run into some problems. In theory, I am fully aware of all of this. It is the reality I am really worried about.

Here’s the deal

I like to think I usually make pretty good life choices. I was never black out drunk at a college frat party and made out with a rando (looking at you Bev). I have never been arrested, but I have gotten two speeding tickets. Damn you, lead foot Walker County! I went to school, got a job, bought a car, and now I am paying my bills on time. I have an excellent credit score and now I want more.

We currently live in an 800 sq. foot apartment. The building is older, but it was recently updated and the finishes are nice. Renting is nice for the short-term, but I want a house. I want a place that I can change if I am so inclined.  But . . . I do not want a huge home. Being a native Texan, this is a bit of a weird concept. “Everything’s bigger in Texas” usually includes the homes. My boyfriend, Nincol, and I have decided to go in the opposite direction. We want a smaller home – possibly a tiny home – , larger outdoor living area, less mortgage, and ideally somewhere in walking/biking distance of shops. If you have ever been to this fantastic state, you know, this is damn near impossible unless you live in the city. We have two dogs, Duke and Duchess. We dream of one day just letting them out in the backyard to play and sniff, instead of leashing them up every time they want to go outside.

Our solution is to build a small or tiny home. At this point, to be completely honest, we can’t decide which. But here is the plan:

  1. Save up money … not sure how much at this point. (We will hash this part out later.)
  2. Purchase property … not sure where at this point. (We will hash this part out later.)
  3. Build a home … not sure what kind at this point. (We will hash this part out later.)
  4. Live in the home happily ever after … with minimal debt. (We will hash this part out later.)

This should be fun … right?