Home Buying rules

houses for sale signMint has a good post with some guidelines on things to do and to avoid when buying a house. “The Ten Commandments of Home Buying” covers a few things that are important to note. The things that resonated with me:

  • Don’t bite off more mortgage than you can chew.
  • Carry few or no other debts.
  • Keep a big buffer.
  • Have an emergency fund.
  • Have good life, disability, and health insurance.
  • Bring a 20% down payment.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that buying a house is in my long-term plans. Articles like this make my radar. And they make me sad, because I know, really know, that my house isn’t going to become reality this year… or any time soon.

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Something new — homemade yellow curry

Yellow curry

Lunch today was homemade yellow curry with cauliflower. The recipe called for potatoes, and I did include a few, but the cauliflower is my attempt to include some veggies in it.

So, what I put in it:

  • one can of coconut milk
  • two tablespoons of yellow curry powder
  • two tablespoons of powdered ginger
  • one tablespoon of cinnamon
  • two tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes (which, as it turns out, was too much)
  • one bag of frozen chopped cauliflower
  • one small potato chopped in big chunks (pre-cooked)
  • two cups of white rice (pre-cooked)
  • one small box of raisins
  • one cup of pineapple chunks
  • sliced onions and red bell peppers to taste

First sauté the cauliflower until soft. Make it as crunchy or as soft as you want.
Add peppers and onions.
Add spices and coconut milk. Let simmer a few minutes.

After the spices and the milk have combined and soaked into the cauliflower, add in the rest.

You can opt to make this with some sort of meat, which is added at the end (pre-cooked).

Tastes best if you’ve let it sit overnight to reheat the next day.

I’m very happy with this recipe. I will definitely make it again.

***** Written on my ipad. I promise to proof and edit it later (maybe). ******

Facing realities about money, AKA why I’m not buying a house this year

Money is not my friend.Last year I did something that’s both dumb and smart. Last year I moved into the house my brother bought. This was done mostly to be helpful, but also to save money. But I’m barely being helpful and I only saved the minimum amount of money.

Let me explain.

My baby brother is a military man. (BTW, “baby brother” is a six-foot, linebacker-looking 27-year-old.) Over the last 18 months he spent 15 months in Afghanistan, got engaged, bought a house he’d never seen, convinced me to move into said house with his now fiancée, and took a job in Virginia. (This whole paragraph equals approximately a dozen separate posts, so I’m not going to go into the details here. I’m just setting the stage.)

“You can save money for a down payment,” he told me when he was talking me into moving into the house he was about to purchase. And that made sense. As I’ve pointed out before, I seem to be incapable to save money, so the help helps.

I estimated that I could save $12,000 in a year by not having to pay rent and economizing a little. Even with the increases in my monthly gas budget I knew I could probably hit that (my commute went from 10 minutes to 45, in “good” traffic).

I made an excel spreadsheet and put in where I needed to be at each payday so I could meet my goal. And I tracked it. Some months I did better than others, but I met my yearly goal.


I could have done better.

I saved my money. I did. I really did.

But I had all those out-of-pocket expenses for the surgery and the preparation. My wonderful insurance covered almost everything, but I still had about $1,500 in surgery-related expenses that I paid for myself. (Did you note that I wasn’t being sarcastic when I typed “wonderful”?)

And I had a root canal plus new crown, which equalled nearly another $1,000 over three visits.

My truck broke down at least twice, with repairs at nearly $1,000 each time. And that doesn’t take into account regular maintenance and the new tires.

I went with my family to New Orleans over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m estimating that I spent about $800-$900 for those four days.

I bought an iPad. Yes, the deluxe version, with mobile internet access and a monthly bill. I’ll let you fill in amounts for that.

And I have no idea how much money I overspent on gifts, lunches out, celebratory dinners and other “special”-day related expenses. I have found that this is a big money drain, since I have no restraint.

I could have saved much more.

Now I am looking at having to buy a new car this year. My truck has reached that point where I’m almost paying as much to keep it running as I would to pay off another vehicle. It’s time. Which means that I need at least $5,000 for a down payment, and I need to budget to pay $12,000-$15,000 overall for a decent used vehicle. Even with a good loan, I will be paying this down the next two years or so.

So that wipes out nearly half what I saved over the last year, and makes it nearly impossible for me to save money in the next few years.

Median home prices in Houston have new homes at $127,000. If I need to save 20% for a down payment, that means I need approximatly $25,000. I have $12,000 saved up, so if I don’t have to use that money for the new car, I almost have half what I need.

I need to make more money. I need to spend a lot less.

It will be another three years before I can buy a house, if everything I’m anticipating happens as planned. And by then home prices will have gone up, home loan interest rates will have increased, and my situation will have changed at least a dozen times.

Packing my lunch — #smallvictories

Roasted chicken & green beans
Stylized pic of my packed lunch (roast chicken with green beans), which I am eating at my desk.

I am very proud to say that I’ve packed my lunch for three days in a row. Last week I only ate out for business lunches, and the same for the week prior to that. I know that one of the reasons I’m doing this is because I don’t want to brave the unusually cold Houston winter. But this is also helpful in my quest to keep my points down and stay on budget.

Houstonians eat out more than in any other city in the country. I had read (somewhere) that it’s something like more than 50% of lunches and dinners during the week are eaten in restaurants. That’s certainly the case for me, normally. It’s a trend I’m trying to change.

Houston portions are no different than portions in most other cities: large and extra large. It’s hard to stay on track if you’re eating out all the time. It’s especially hard to stay on budget.

If you eat out several times a week, here’s an exercise for you: write down every penny you spend on eating out in one month (and that does include the vending machine) then multiply that by 12. You’ll be surprised by how much it comes up to. I know I usually am.

I will admit that “eating in” is not as much fun. But one of the benefits is that I’m writing my blog posts over lunch, among other things, so it’s helping keep me more productive.

What’s your small victory for the day?


Do you have $50,000?

Earlier this week I read an article that stated, basically, that if I want to buy a house I will need the full 20% for a down payment. In Houston, for an average priced house, that means I need $50,000.

Wow, that’s a lot of money.

The article also stated that for an average person, it will take 10 years to save up that money. Ten years… sounds right.

It’s a depressing thought.

How long would it take you to save $50,000?