The Moneyist: My husband and I live in a 1,300-square-foot home with two kids. I want to upgrade. He likes living below his means. Who’s right?

United States

Dear Quentin,

My husband and I have a three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home worth $ 280,000. We only owe $ 103,000.

We have two daughters and I would like a bigger home, which would require a down payment of $ 100,000 on a $ 400,000 home to stay within $ 2,000 monthly payments.

Nor do we have an office, and we will be permanently working from home. We make decent money — approximately $ 5,500 a month — and our current mortgage is only $ 1,340.

We would still have $ 100,000 in savings after upgrading. Regardless, we will not live there forever — probably 15 years before we sell and downsize. I don’t see what the issue is.

‘He says I’m being difficult for wanting more space’

My husband said, “Why should we move to a bigger place and pay more? We are fine where we are.” But we are extremely cramped. Our kids have literally no closet space.

He says he loves our life now. We literally do what we want, purchase anything we desire, and eat out all the time. Before you ask, yes, we also save money every month.

He says I’m being difficult for wanting more space — and, yes, our spending habits would obviously have to change — but I’m willing to make those sacrifices. He, however, is not. 

Please help me understand or help me win the argument.

Feeling Cramped

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Dear Cramped,

It’s not about winning. This is a dilemma that millions of families are grappling with — and have been even before the pandemic. Given the state of your finances, it’s more about choice than winning or losing. Your husband chooses to stay. You prefer to move. 

Of course, your situation depends on the ages of your children — how soon will they be going to college? — and the potential to make a modest addition to your existing property. I’ll proceed on the assumption that they’re young and an extension is not feasible. 

I’m a big fan of putting the pros and cons and current and future finances on paper. Given the upheaval and extra expense involved in a move, the onus is on you to make the case. You lay out the financials and your reasons for moving, and then he gives you his response. 

There’s no guarantee you would rein in your expenses. Never underestimate the power of those regular treats to add up, and the difficulty of making such sweeping changes to our lifestyles. That’s one of many reasons credit-card debt continues to increase.

You could ask your husband to humor you, and view a few choice open houses so he can imagine what life might be like in a larger space. Tell him there is no commitment. That’s key to taking the pressure off him. The more you push, the more he will push back.

It may be frustrating for you to live in a house that you both agreed to purchase and, at one time, made you both happy. It’s quite another scenario to buy a home under duress, and one that doesn’t make you happy. That would give you bigger problems in your bigger house.

And the issue of space could seem quaint in comparison.

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