- DH = dear husband
- DD1 = dear first daughter
- DD2 = dear second daughter
“write about what you’re doing stay out of debt”
2 months ago, I hit a writer’s block for the first time in 6 years of blogging. Why? Our narrative had changed dramatically because we’d received an inheritance, and it no longer felt genuine for me to be writing about our “struggle” to become debt-free – since it was no longer a struggle. I shared my concern with a colleague who reads this blog, and she said, “Why don’t you write about what you’re doing to stay out of debt? It’s a real issue, and it’s not a topic that many people write about.”
I have been very confident throughout this journey out of debt that DH and I would never use debt to buy anything ever again. We had indulged in yo-yo debting in the past, but we were now aware of our old bad patterns and were steering clear of them.
My susceptibility to marketing “seduction”
In these last 6 years, although we have saved for every purchase and avoided debt, there have been a few times when I’ve come face-to-face with my own susceptibility to what I can only call the seduction of marketing. In a post I wrote in December of 2013, “Debt and Battlefield of the Brain at Christmas Time”, I recognized the power of the season over my wallet.
“I got a little lost as I looked through all that was available,” I wrote of my shopping experience. “A subtle seduction was working its power on me as I imagined DD1’s delight and DD2’s surprise as each opened her gifts Christmas morning. The colours, the fabrics, the variety of styles . . . They wobbled my mental math, making me round down, making me subtract rather than add tax – or so it must have been, because I was way off and genuinely shocked by that $299 total.”
In 2015, after we’d paid off all non-mortgage debt, we decided to reward ourselves with some new furniture to go hand-in-hand with the home-office renovations DH was doing. Again, that seduction worked its power. In a post from the spring before our renovations began, I wrote “We would have to start looking out for new furniture – a sectional sofa for the old office space; a small love seat and two chairs for the combined family room/dining room . . . It was SO LOVELY to be able to think, talk, and plan in this way! I was high on visions of tile, hardwood, and leather furniture. I don’t even care how shallow that sounds!” How embarrassing is that?
Our condo plans
A few days ago, DH sat down at the kitchen table with me as I finished up my breakfast. His body language told me that he wanted to broach a difficult topic. “Let’s talk some sense and sensibility,” he said. (Sense and Sensibility is the title of one of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m a big fan. It was strategic diplomacy on DH’s part to use those words.) He was holding floor plans of the different condo units from the close-to-downtown development we’d planned to move into.
A quick recap – I have always wanted to live downtown, and recently, DH and I discovered a new development in a great area close to the the downtown core. Condos are being built, and 2 months ago we decided that this fall we would put money down on one scheduled to be ready in 2022. We were both very excited about this plan, and we’ve visited the development several times over the summer. The timing seemed perfect. In 2022, we will both be retired empty-nesters. And although the condos are expensive, we were confident that we’d be able to cover the cost completely with the sale of our home.
Sober second thoughts
As DH started to talk at the kitchen table that morning, I knew where he was going. “It’s OK,” I said. “I woke up today thinking the same thing.” Our individual mental gymnastics had brought us to a shared conclusion based on many points.
- The 10% we would put towards the condo in October would mean a significant amount of investment money not gaining any interest for 4 years.
- We can only say that the price of the condo is more or less what we could reasonably expect to get for our house once it’s fixed up. There is no guarantee though. Who knows what will happen with housing prices in the next few years?
- Condo fees will be significant, and again, there’s no telling what will happen to them over time. Usually, condo fees go up.
- To get the house sale ready within 2 to 3 years, I would have to work an extra year. I might choose to work an extra year anyway, but this would make it a “have to” thing – not a choice.
- There would be an ever-present stress between the time we put the 10% down and the time we put the house up for sale. “Will the sale price cover the cost of the condo?”
Bottom line: it’s too risky. It’s too close to the line. When we move to a smaller space – as we probably will in the next 5 years or so – it should be a move that ends up giving us a slush fund. It should not be a move that might give us a new mortgage – as well as condo fees – when we’re on our lower retirement income.
So we’re not going to put 10% down in October. More than likely, that means we won’t move into that development. Worst case scenario? Our house sells at a more-than-adequate price but the condo also goes up in price and stays out of our reach. And we say, “If only we’d put that 10% down in October of 2018!” Could I live with that? Of course.
“You never know,” DH said. “Maybe in 4 years we’ll be saying how relieved we are that we didn’t go for this because of something else that comes up – something better.”
“That’s a nice thought,” I said. “But I can’t see it. I can’t even imagine something better.” DH winced. “But I’m OK with that,” I added.
And I am. I LOVED the idea of moving into that condo. It looked p-e-r-f-e-c-t. But I l know that if it compromised the financial freedom we’ve been gaining, it would be a huge regret. It’s never a good idea to want something too much. That kind of longing is at least in part the product of marketing, and for me, it’s been the cause of many debts. I’m sure that DD2 and DD1 can’t even remember the Christmas gifts we gave to them in 2013. And that furniture I was so excited about in 2015? It’s just our furniture now. Presents and sofas don’t make life full. Neither do condos.
Have you ever wanted something “too much”? Your comments are welcome.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons