How Much House Do You Really Need?

February 12, 2021

We see gorgeous homes on social media and television everyday. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting one. How much house do you really need though?

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We see gorgeous homes on social media and television everyday. It's easy to get caught up in wanting one. How much house do you really need though?
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I typically consider myself quite “good with money”. I steadily pay down debt and invest, and I’m conscious of my spending. However, occasionally a shiny new thing catches my eye. I momentarily want to throw all those good habits out the window and hand over my credit card. Shiny thing would be mine!!

I justify all the reasons I *need* it in my life. I convince myself how much better my life will be once it’s mine.

Saying no to myself in those moments typically makes me want to act like a child throwing a tantrum on the floor. Luckily this all occurs in my head so outwardly I continue functioning like an adult.

This “BUT I NEED IT!!” feeling has been more intense since I got a house.

Prior to this year I’ve always rented and never really hard to urge to fix them up (although some of them realllllllly needed it). I’d do small things like buying a new shower curtain or adding a plant paradise to one window, but nothing that could break the bank.

Owning is much much different.

L bought a fixer upper a couple years ago and that’s where we currently live. Every room has a different carpet. It was originally painted orange, pink, and red (luckily most of that has been repainted). The kitchen isn’t properly insulated so it’s freezing in the winter. Don’t even ask me about the basement….

However: it’s in an amazing neighbourhood with a bikeable commute to work, it’s close to river trails for exercising the dog and myself, and it has all amenities within a healthy walking distance.

We could sell this house and buy something brand new in a less desirable neighbourhood for equal cost. However, then e would both have a large commute to work, and my dog & I wouldn’t have trail access without driving first.

I remember a discussion with a coworker who lives in a similar neighbourhood to us. She told me when she’s out on a sunny jog after work she pictures the people stuck in their vehicles still trying to just drive home and knows she made the right choice. Easy for her to say I thought- she has matching floors and a warm kitchen.

Having a nice house has always been appealing to me. I’ve been drawn to home renovation shows for awhile. More recently I got caught up watching “Selling Sunset” and kept pointing houses out to L saying “that’s my style!”. Huge windows, fireplaces, and a gorgeous black and white modern style.

The problem: our house looks NOTHING like that.

Another point of the show worth noting: None of them seem happy.

[Funny side story: L could not stop staring at the women on the show and commenting on how much plastic surgery they’d had and how their faces didn’t move at all. He said they’re scary aliens. We’d get in playful arguments about whether they’re beautiful (I voted yes)].

L originally planned on renovating the house himself but that’s hard when you’re working lots of overtime already. We decided to look into paying someone to do the work.

We got a quote from a renovation company last summer to price out the radical changes we *ahem I* wanted to make to the house. The estimate?


That would push our financial goals back by YEARS. If we spent that kind of money we would need to continue working full time++ hours for extra decades just to pay it off.

Didn’t I say my priority was having options once we have kids?

I want to be able to work part time if I choose. We want to retire well before “normal age”. It’s important to us to have enough time off work to take off on family adventures at our choosing.

It’s very, very painful when your “wants” don’t line up with your “priorities”.

You know you’re about to say the hardest word to yourself: No.

Realistically though, how much would my life change with those renovations?

I’d barely have time at home to even enjoy them since I’d be working all the time.

Water wouldn’t taste any different coming out of a new faucet. Food wouldn’t stay any colder in a stainless steel fridge.

I thought back to my childhood and tried to remember what my friends houses looked like. The layout of the homes are vaguely familiar, but I cannot recall any of the decor. I do remember which parents seemed friendly and cool (and which ones gave us the best snacks). My point is that having a less fancy house will not negatively effect my family at all. In fact, having financially secure parents will likely HELP their childhood.

Everything in our house is functional.

(Except the basement).

It’s not difficult to renovate certain things ourselves such as adding in floor heating to warm up the kitchen, or adding vinyl plank flooring instead of carpet in the bedrooms.

When we actually sat down and really talked about what the house needs (mostly the basement) we figured we can quite easily do it ourselves for less than $20,000. That includes new triple pane windows.

The house will be warm, functional, and safe in an amazing neighbourhood. We can walk to the pool, library or grocery store.

Even better: we can easily afford it which opens up other options for our money.

There will always be shiny things that catch your eye. It’s ok to notice and desire them. Heck, I’m not immune to it. It’s worth taking a pause and asking whether it really lines up with what you want out of life though. Besides the initital excitement of acquiring it, how does that thing really make you feel? Does it feel right to you?

What is the opportunity cost of getting it? Always consider whether that is a cost you’re truly willing to pay before taking the leap.

We see gorgeous homes on social media and television everyday. It's easy to get caught up in wanting one. How much house do you really need though?
  • Save

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Would you rather look rich or be wealthy?

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  1. shojoba says:

    Ha, this made me laugh. We own a small home and I LOVE interior design/remodeling, but of course it’s not super compatible with FIRE/frugality. And I also work a VERY full-time job and am pretty easy on myself about getting projects done in spare time. That said, it’s been super fun to set a “house budget” for making things more like we’d want them, and figuring out how to maximize that through finding things used (fixtures especially), diy (furniture especially), and compromising (we miiiiight have an interior wall that has been drywalled but not painted for more than 3 years now… shh! it’s upstairs so no one knows!). So yeah, I totally support you wanting to make your nest what you’d like it to look like, while recognizing that progress is incremental and (CRUCIAL POINT) the fun is in the journey of getting there. Seriously, half the fun is searching and pinning the looks we want, finding the deals, and installing each new piece/fix. Take lots of “before” photos so you can appreciate the progress! Also check out poshpennies.com for fun ID looks at different price points…

    • admin says:

      Oh gosh thank you!!! I need all the suggestions I can get because I am very new to the world of house improvement haha. Do you have set times you work on your place or more “when inspiration hits”?. I feel like it’s going to be fun seeing progress but also frustrating because I suspect it’ll be turtle-paced!

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