Nerissa Mendoza – Creative Services Manager at Stnce – shares how she financially navigated two of life’s biggest milestones at the same time.
Stnce is a platform that believes confidence is the key to taking financial ownership. This is part of a series we call, “Not at the Table!” where we ask people to address the elephant in the room – the taboos of personal finance.
In 2013, we already knew we wanted to get married the following year. We had booked the venue, decided on a date, and settled on a lot of the decor. But, we were curious about the housing market and had heard from friends that it could take a long time to find a place we both liked, so we started the hunt. I had my heart set on a new home in a new neighbourhood because I liked the idea of a fresh start. I wanted to build a new life with my partner and thought it wouldn’t be the same if we were to buy a place that had already seen those years. So, we took our time to find out what we did and didn’t like in a home.
“Expecting nothing, we didn’t go prepared with a pre-approval nor had we gone to the bank for advice. But upon entering the sixth house, it hit us like a brick wall (no pun intended).”
In early 2014, about half-a-year to our wedding, we decided to check out a few houses with an agent. Expecting nothing, we didn’t go prepared with a pre-approval nor had we gone to the bank for advice. But upon entering the sixth house, it hit us like a brick wall (no pun intended). We fell in love. This had to be our home. Everything about it was better than if we had built it ourselves.
The house ended up being above our budget, but it came with the upgrades we would have installed anyway, had we gone with a newer, smaller property. Plus, the landscaping was complete, and the location was close to our families. We saw a few more houses, but none of them was as good as “ours.” When we went to Tim Horton’s to talk it over, and I found myself saying, “Let’s do it. Let’s put in a bid.” It was the first time I had taken a financial risk in my life, but I knew my credit score was high and there was no reason to believe our jobs were on the line. So, we submitted the papers. The next day, the couple who had put in the initial bid made amendments. And I found myself removing our conditions and making another financially risky decision. Fortunately, it all worked out, and the deal went through.
Although the paperwork went smoothly, it was still overwhelming to come back to reality and face the remaining costs of the wedding, especially since we had chosen bi-weekly payments to pay off our debt faster. Having a mortgage meant cutting back and compromising on what we had initially wanted. For example, we had planned to get each other something nice for the ceremony but had to reallocate those funds to the house. We also had to reassess the thank you gifts for our wedding party. And the invitations, the photographer, the centrepieces, the honeymoon, they all had to be looked at again. To make sure we weren’t tempted to overspend, I created a spreadsheet that outlined all the costs we had left and broke down when each payment was due as well as how much money we needed to save each month. Of course, I wish I hadn’t compromised on almost everything. Photography is one of the most critical elements of that day, and I regret not hiring someone more experienced.
It’s funny, I have a big family, and several of my cousins also bought a house and got married at the same time. Their biggest advice to me? Don’t do it.
But if the timing’s right, then it’s right, right?
Looking back, we might have been able to save a lot more for the house if we had done a destination wedding or cut our guest list in half, but then again, it would have been a lot more trouble than it was worth (again, no pun intended).
After all, was said and done, we didn’t furnish our house for the longest time. We wanted to realign and reset our budget, and we figured the original plan was to buy a house a year after we got married anyway. For a while, we had everything stashed in closets and set up the bare minimum to make the home functional. Thankfully, we had the wisdom of putting practical items on our registry, so we didn’t need to buy a lot of things once we got settled.
“He’s better at number crunching and budgeting. I’m better at monitoring and sticking to the plan.”
One of the areas I’m glad we agree on, spending-wise, is how and when to use our credit cards. We have both separate and joint bank accounts, but our primary usage comes from the joint one. For us, it’s easier to have an open conversation and be transparent about it. And it’s not as much of a headache to make sure we’re both spending within our means. And we each have our strengths, which becomes particularly evident when we need to manage the account. He’s better at number crunching and budgeting. I’m better at monitoring and sticking to the plan. He’ll set a goal, and I’ll make sure we’re more conscious of how often we’re eating out or spending on groceries. If we need to get away and take a break from continually watching how we spend our money, I’ll cash in some of the points we’ve accumulated through loyalty programs. I find it’s the best way to stay within budget and avoid dipping into our savings while being able to indulge in the finer things in life.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that you’re the company you keep. So, I think my level-headedness and practicality comes from my family, friends, and peers; there’s an understanding that happiness is just as important as stability.
As told to Cara Lau exclusively for Stnce. Illustration by Yana Vorontsov. We make taking financial ownership approachable and relatable.