Although I haven’t conducted a scientific study, I suspect that most people of modest means who are successful in managing their personal finances understand the importance of being patient.
Let’s face it: Most debt-free people aren’t impulsive shoppers, or insistent on instant gratification — if they want something but don’t have the cash, then they wait until they’ve saved enough.
An Unexpected Milestone
Patience has certainly played a ginormous role in allowing me to build a healthy nest egg — not to mention keeping my debt to a minimum. I was reminded of that again last week after the Honeybee and I bought beautiful new end- and coffee-tables to cap off our recent remodeling project: As we were loading the car with our old tables to give to a local charity, it dawned on me that we originally bought that furniture second-hand from friends of ours a decade earlier. Even more momentous was the fact that, 13 long years after buying our home, we were only now getting rid of the last of our hand-me-down furniture.
When we first bought our new home, we bought one new furniture set to go into it: a kitchen table with six chairs. Everything else was “donated” by our parents or bought second-hand. Not that we cared. In fact, we ignored the urge to fill every room with brand new furniture because: 1) we didn’t have the money, and; 2) we weren’t willing to go into debt for five or six years to pay for it.
Why Waiting Was Worth It
Looking back, the wait was definitely worth it. The Honeybee and I could have furnished our entire house when we first moved in 13 years ago (minus the kitchen set we bought) for about $12,000.
If we had been impatient — and took out a 5-year loan for the full amount at an interest rate of 8% — we would have spent an additional $2,599 in interest. Even today, that’s enough money to pay for a room of furniture all by itself.
Over the years, our patience has allowed us to avoid a lot of costly interest payments. As a result, we’ve been able to afford some things much sooner than we otherwise would have — without being beholden to any lender.
The Reality Is… Saving Money Takes Time
Anyway, this little furniture episode got me thinking about how long the Honeybee and I have had to wait to buy certain things we’ve wanted since moving into our new home in 1997. So I put together a little list of all the “big ticket” items we’ve bought since then — either for the first time, or to replace our second-hand stuff. (The numbers in parentheses note how long we waited before we could finally afford to buy each item):
- Matthew’s new bedroom set (1 year)
- Backyard patio slab (1 year)
- New mini van (2 years)
- Family room sofa set (3 years)
- Nina’s new bedroom set (4 years)
- Built-in family room entertainment center (5 years)
- Tile floors for family room, foyer, powder room and kitchen (6 years)
- Replace blinds with shutters throughout house (7 years)
- Loft remodel, including furniture, wood flooring and built-in loft office desk and cabinets (8 years)
- Wood flooring in guest bathroom (8 years)
- Upgraded carpet in living room and bedrooms (8 years)
- Dining room table, hutch and buffet table (9 years)
- Living room sofa sleeper (9 years)
- Upgrade the wood privacy fence with a block wall (10 years)
- Upgraded glass front doors (11 years)
- Upgraded iron staircase balusters (11 years)
- Upgraded cabinets in kitchen, powder room, and baths (12 years)
- Kitchen, bath and powder room remodel (13 years)
- Family room coffee table and end table (13 years)
- Backyard patio cover (15 years)
- New car (16 years)
- New master bedroom furniture and a master bath remodel (17 years)
- Computerized telescope (still waiting; unknown how far off)
People of modest means should understand two important facts:
- We can’t have it all at once.
- Saving money takes time — sometimes lots of it.
As you can see, I’m still waiting for my high-end computerized telescope. That’s okay though; I may be old, but life is a marathon and — as best as I can tell — I’ve still got more than a few miles to go.
Besides, the stars and planets aren’t going away any time soon.
Photo Credit: Chris Preen
(This is an updated version of an article originally posted on December 1, 2010)