It’s official — I’m going to be a homeowner! I guess that statement may be a bit premature based on its strong reliance on a few fairly significant pending circumstances and outcomes, being 1) I find a place I actually like (so far, not so good), 2) at a price I can afford, and 3) in a neighborhood I like (the first and last are relatively easy, it’s finding one that employs all three criterion that’s going to be a real bugger).
Obviously buying a home is an important life decision and one not to be taken lightly. It signifies some big milestones, probably the most important in my case being the decision to officially call Denver my home, at least for the next five or so years. I suppose one could argue that it’s been my home since my arrival in 2007, but honestly the last few months I’ve been wavering between staying and leaving. Nothing against Denver and Colorado — I love you both dearly — but my recurring resistance to stay had been rearing its ugly head again as of late. But, after some significant journaling, soul searching and a number of pros-and-cons lists, I came to realize that everything I really need is life right now is right here (or, at least a day’s drive away).
Once I came to the above conclusion, it was time to start getting a bit more serious about the process. My first big step was moving past my obsession with stalking houses on Zillow and actually venturing out to see a few properties, which I accomplished this week with the help of my awesome realtor. I still have about five or so months until my current lease will expire, but I want to get a better idea of what exactly I’m looking for and what’s in my price range.
Along those same lines, this morning I had my first meeting with a mortgage lender. Honestly, this was the scarier of the two steps for me. Money and budgeting have always been somewhat of a challenge for me and although fortunately I have a good job, great credit and have worked very hard the last few years to pay down my debt, it’s still intimidating for me to reveal my financial history to another human being. In the end, thankfully, it turned out my worrying was for naught as everything seemed fine on my end (I’m judging this solely on the fact that the instances of the lender saying “oh, that’s great” far outnumbered the “oh, we can work on that.”).
So, now the real hard work begins — getting serious about scrimping and saving to maximize my savings for a down payment, closing costs, etc. The good news is I have a bit of a head start as I have been socking away some funds for the past six months or so, most of which have come from my promotion and subsequent raise that I received in April.
However, to say I have been cutting back on my lifestyle to maximize savings would be a bit fictional (okay, a lot). In my attempt to remedy this and start contributing more to savings, I did a bit of searching on the internets this morning and came up with a few lists of “easy” ways to save, some of which were laughable (keeping distance from “lavish, high-roller” friends), some that definitely seemed doable (making meals at home, less Starbucks trips and borrowing instead of buying books) and, surprisingly, many that I already employ (regulating electric use, paying bills on time, making a list before grocery shopping).
After gaining some inspiration from the internets, I came up with a few goals and methods of my own for the next six months:
- buy less stuff. this coincides and supports another goal of mine to minimize and simplify of which I got an amazing start on this weekend by donating about one-fourth of my closet to Goodwill.
- decrease monthly shopping allowance. this goes hand-in-hand with the preceding goal, but will still be a challenge. the immediate payoff will be seeing my savings balance increase immediately as the previously allocated funds are deposited there.
- prepare and eat meals at home more often. some days this will be easy, others more difficult. it’s just about making it a priority.
- drink at home more often/go to bars less often. perhaps I could be more strict and enforce an overall less drinking policy. but, let’s be honest, I’m going to need something to drown my sorrows when all my friends are out having fun without me, which brings me to the next goal . . .
- restrict concerts and other events that rank high on the spending chart.
Fortunately, I do have a few things going for me that may help the next six months be a bit more bearable:
- the cold winter weather offers less temptation for going out.
- I’ve already purchased my ski pass for the year, which means that money won’t come out of savings and as long as there is actually snow this year, this can be a nearly-free activity that can entertain me for most of the winter.
- I have understanding friends and family members who won’t mind their scaled-down holiday, birthday and other gifts for the next six months or so (consider this your official warning, friends and family).
- between physical books and those I’ve downloaded on my Kindle, as well as all of the “fun” articles I’ll be reading for classes until June, I have enough reading material to last at least six months, which means no need to buy any new books.
Bottom line is the next six months will be a challenge, but the reward of owning my own place will be worth it. First order of business for the new frugal lifestyle: finding a Halloween costume that doesn’t cost a fortune. Challenge accepted (another warning to my friends, do not be surprised if I show up this weekend in a black trash bag with some green face paint and call myself a witch. this is an absolute possibility).