I had the unique opportunity of analyzing loan dockets of delinquent borrowers. In many occasions, it was clear to me some of these borrowers bought a house they could not afford in the first place. Their mortgage payment was over 30 to 35% of their take home pay which is a recipe for disaster. The discretionary income could not support the least of emergency like a replacement battery or a couple of replacement tires. Of course I was looking at numbers. But the problem is deeper than that.

I know a young lady who decided that a 3 bedroom, two car garage, two bathrooms and a fireplace were too small for her. That was my house at the time. But at that time, she was staying with her mother, her grandmother, and 2 young kids in a 3 bedroom house and a bath. I am guessing she must have been very unhappy with her living condition. She surely did not want what she can afford.

Wanting what you can afford can make us a happier person.. I was very happy with my red VW rabbit and never wanted a BMW or a Cadillac. Today I live in 2 bedroom house with detached garage and a nice yard. My mortgage is so low; I can afford it while collecting unemployment benefit if I were to become unemployed. I can spend my time in the yard enjoying the flower and the vegetable and not worry about my next mortgage payment.

Some folks may call me cheap or tight. These folks have to work 3 jobs in order to pay for the house and cars they can’t afford on a regular salary. They don’t have time to enjoy the expensive house they love so much. Their kids think of them of house guests they get to see every blue moon. When they are home, they are too stressed and too tired for quality time.

I have a friend who is the chief nurse at a local hospital. She made good money. She decided to buy a house in an upscale neighborhood. She bought furniture, appliances, and car to match. Her more than average salary was inadequate for the obligation she was committed to. To augment her income, she took a teaching job at a local college at night and a weekend job at a different hospital.

She communicates with her son by phone and usually blames him for not helping around the house and not understanding that she is working very hard to put a roof over his head and food of the table. I witnessed a conversation where the son expressed the desire for “mom’s cooking”. She replied with the usual “I am working 3 jobs to care of you; I don’t have time to cook”, speech. The conversation turned hostile when the son suggested she was not working to care of him, she was working to keep up with the Jones; all he wanted was a home cooked meal. A home cooked meal is often more appreciated then a nice empty, loveless house with all the bells and whistle
The Jones doesn’t have time to cook either. They have 3 car payments, a high mortgage payment, and they are in debt to their eyeballs. The Jones are depressed. They have hypertension. They are stressed, have no time for sex or to stop and smell the roses.

Wanting what you can afford is not wishing you had lobster while you are eating neck-bone. Wanting what you can afford is enjoying the neck-bone you can pay for with cash.

I am willing to bet that the bankruptcy court would close their door if all of us decide to want and enjoy the Ford Escort, Pinto, or Volkswagen of the last generation. Unfortunately, the courthouse parking lot is full of BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes driven by people who can hardly afford to put gas in this vehicle. These folks wanted what they could not afford. Want what you can afford and enjoy it!
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