Don’t forget to read the comments on this site. This one (from this post) was so good that I had to post it here:
One thing that might be worth talking about as part of the Financial Makeover is being realistic about housing, transportation, and lifestyle. A lot of people get a bit crazy with spending when they get their first job that pays more than peanuts. For the last several years I’ve been paying far more than I’ve needed to because I felt that I needed to live in a NICE apartment. After living in a nice place for a while and even upgrading to a better place, I realized that I was throwing away half of my income on living expenses and not even earning any equity. It seemed obvious enough that is was time to buy a house and start building some real value. After all, my friends were all buying houses and they seem to be managing just fine. After a period of house hunting and analysis of both my finances and my realistic needs, I realized that owning a house would completely ruin me at this point in my life. After spending so much on rent in a full service apartment for several years, I didn’t have much money for a decent down payment so the banks would have eaten my lunch. On top of that, I’m still in grad school part time in addition to having a full time job, so I wouldn’t have time to properly maintain a house and keep other time commitments in my life as well.
Having given my housing situation plenty of reflection and trying to find a way to make it work, I’ve realized something about myself – I really just don’t need to live alone or in a fancy place. Sure it’s nice, but I don’t need it to be happy. Everyone has different needs to satisfy their esteem. Some people need to drive a nice car but don’t care where they live. Some people need a nice home but would be perfectly happy driving a rusty old beater. Some people need to have high end home electronics or designer suits and watches. Some people just don’t know what they want and drive themselves into debt trying to have it all without the means to support it. Doing some honest self-reflection and being realistic about things you don’t really need can help you find a few big ways to get your finances in order. Cutting back on things you don’t honestly need can free up a lot of capital for the things that really do matter to you. For my situation, I’ve realized that while I do want to own a home some day, it’s not time yet. I’d rather get my debts settled and save up a nestegg in case I end up moving to another city when I’m done with grad school. This summer I’m moving out of my expensive apartment and into a room in a friend’s house and as a result I’ll be cutting my living expenses by more than 60%. That extra saved money can go into investments and savings until a time when my life is sorted out enough to do something with it.
I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming article that I’ve been thinking about for a few months. (Hint: It’s about jeans.)