The Road to Buying a House... Volume 1

Jaycob and I are getting closer to making our dream a reality and buying a house in Santa Fe!  We're currently enrolled in a class for first-time house buyers through Homewise, a nonprofit organization helping Santa Fe residents own homes within their budget.  The class has been extremely helpful and informative, and I'm feeling really optimistic about actually being able to own a house in the next year.  We're learning a lot of about the process of purchasing a home, qualifications for a mortgage, ways to improve our credit, and how to be informed and responsible consumers in this huge process.  Right now we're trying to pay off our credit card debt as much as possible so we can start saving for a down payment.

A major step for us this week is to create a budget and stick to it.  I have spent countless hours creating numerous budget spreadsheets for myself in the past, but have never really been successful.  My challenges are a) I underestimate needed costs like new car tires, groceries, and pet care, b) I don't allow myself enough spending money and end up completely falling off the wagon, and c) the big expenses seem to come all at once and destroy my budget altogether (e.g. Christmas shopping, or owing on our taxes last year).  Jaycob and I also have some serious obstacles to face including unfathomable student loan debt, a few thousand dollars of remaining wedding/honeymoon debt, and having all of our family and friends out of state, which requires plane tickets and travel reservations to see the most important people in our lives.

Despite these challenges, we have come up with some goals for saving money!  I hope that by getting them out in the open we will be held accountable and stick to our plans.  

My Money-Saving Goals:

Cut Out the Unnecessary Purchases
1.  Don’t buy books.   Barnes and Noble is one of my guilty pleasures, but I have piles of unread books at home plus free books for my Kindle, and there’s always the library.
2.  Don’t buy magazines or newspapers – read online instead (unless, of course, I need the newest additional of Bridal Guide as a gift for my bride-to-be friends!).
3.  No home office supplies, markers, or fancy stationery – use up what I have.
4.  Say no to pedicures, facials, and massages.  And steer clear of advertisements convincing me that I “need” these things.
5.  I can save hundreds by cutting my own hair and doing my own hair coloring.
6.  No more clothing or swimsuit purchases – wear what I have.
7.  Limit of 2-4 movies per year (ideally matinees), and stick to Redbox rentals or free movies on TV instead.

Shop Smart
8.  Bring a list to Target and REI, and stick to it!  I don’t know about you, but I always go to these stores with a plan to purchase two things, and $120 later I found a lot of other things that “I can’t live without.”
9.  Buy on Amazon!  I forgot to cancel my Prime membership in time during the free trial (they getcha every time…), so I have free shipping for the next 11 ½ months!

Save on Groceries
10.  Don’t waste food!  This is a huge one in our household.
11.  Bring PB&J sandwiches for lunch if I don’t have leftovers.
12.  Limit myself to one work cafeteria purchase per month.
13.  Start being more aware of “normal” prices for everyday items at the grocery store (cereal, milk, bananas, juice, chicken breast, etc.) and track price trends so I can stock up when things are cheap.
14.  Avoid pre-made salads and buy fresh ingredients instead.
15.  I’m not above boxed wine.  Truly.
16.  I’m also not above cutting coupons, as much as I hate the sound of that…
17.  Instead of splurging on Bath and Body Works hand soap, stick with the grocery store brand or Softsoap.

Savvy Eating Out
18.  Avoid the $11 cocktails (unless it’s a special occasion!) and stick to the house wine when possible.
19.  Pre-game!  It’s not just for college students!
20.  Order an appetizer instead of a full entrée for my dinner, or just eat half of my meal and save the leftovers.  (I’m usually pretty good about this already.)
21.  It’s always more economical to order a large pizza and eat leftovers for lunch instead of ordering a smaller pizza: Mathematical Pizza Ordering

Travel Smart
22.  Always always compare prices on Travelocity and Southwest.   (I’ve been pretty good about this already.)
23.  I recently discovered Airbnb vacation rentals, an affordable option of finding homes to rent instead of hotels!
24.  Bike to work whenever possible.  (My plan was to start today, until I remembered that I needed to bring two cakes for a potluck and a stack of dresses to lend to a coworker.  Maybe I will start tomorrow…)

Outdoor Activities
25.  Limit the number of upgrades or unnecessary purchases for my bikes and stick to mandatory maintenance only.
26.  I can save a lot of money if I only ski once or twice this season, or do half days.
27.  There are plenty of fun FREE activities in Santa Fe – hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, music in the park, etc.

28.  Drive safely to avoid car repairs and speeding tickets.
29.  I’m desperate for a new phone (without a cracked screen) and computer (mine is so old that I can’t even upgrade iTunes and therefore can’t sync my computer to my phone or iPod!), but I want a house more.
30.  Avoid a gym membership or indoor rock climbing that I have to pay for.  Workout for free at my apartment gym, or go rock climbing outdoors.

I still have a long way to go with actually creating a budget and sticking to it, and once we own a home we will need to consider things like energy efficiency and water usage, but I think we have a good foundation at this point!

I have learned that while budgeting it's also important to allow myself a few indulgences so I can maintain my quality of life and not risk falling off the wagon.  Here are the items I refuse to give up:

1.  My pets are my family, so I want to continue to buy them high quality food and small toys for their Christmas stockings.
2.  Yoga is important to me, and doing free yoga at home by myself just isn’t the same.
3.  Wedding gifts and cards.  Our friends, family, and guests were very generous at our wedding, so I refuse to buy cheap wedding guests for other people.
4.  I really love the line of CAbi (Carol Anderson by Invitation) clothing and enjoy supporting my local CAbi sales rep, so I hope to continue to buy a few CAbi items each year, even if this is my only clothes shopping.
5.  Cable TV.  This is Jaycob’s indulgence, and I have accepted that I will not win this battle.

Stay tuned for updates on our home buying adventure!


  1. I don't recommend opening a ton of credit card accounts as it can affect your credit, but there are credit card deals that can save you lots of money. In the past 2 years, I've earn 50000+ bonus miles on my Delta card (although it requires a yearly fee), $250 in gift cards for spending $1000 the first 3 months of opening my Citi card, and hundreds back from Priceline card which rewards you 2% on all purchases. You are still going to have bills and everyday expenses but might as well put them on a credit card that is going to reward you a little. Obviously this only applies if you are able to pay off the full amount each month. Just a thought!


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