In other words, while home-buying is an investment, it’s hard to time the housing market in the same way that it’s hard to time the stock market. There’s no way to know exactly what home prices will look like next year, so if you need a house, it’s better to find a house within a price range you can afford now than wait it out for a deal that may never come. The good news is that inflation has caused the red hot housing market to cool, so there’s currently less competition.
When it comes time to close a deal on a home, just make sure that your mortgage payments are manageable rather than hoping you’ll be able to refinance down the line. “I would just encourage people to be picky and make some offers,” says Teutsch. “The thing that I would never encourage people to do is buy a house that doesn’t quite work now and assume they’ll be able to refinance. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.”
When it comes to cars, Teutsch suggests considering what you need and value. He says when he grew up, he was a car nut who obsessively read car magazines and thought about how he’d get his dream car one day. He then found himself on the road traveling for work and realized that he didn’t need the perfect car—just a reliable one.
“I realized that I didn’t really care about which car I got,” Teutsch says. “I just wanted a car that had cruise control and would be boring to drive. And it saved me a huge amount of money over the course of my life.”
Consider a change
Cutting back on expenses will only get you so far. When money is tight, one of the best things you can do is figure out how to get more money in the door, whether that’s through negotiating a raise, changing jobs, or finding a side gig.
“It’s important for people to understand the value they bring, because it’s a favorable labor market right now, which means that a lot of people can get raises,” says Teutsch. “Sometimes that means exploring other opportunities. Sometimes that means figuring out how to advocate for themselves internally. Sometimes that means helping to make sure that if they don’t have a union in their workplace, they get one.”
Bell says it’s always good to study the job market and see what’s out there. “Job switchers have been able to get paid more for the same job when they go to a competitor than if they were to stay and be loyal to a company where they might continue to make the same salary,” she says.
In addition, having a job offer in hand is good leverage to convince your current employer to give you a raise, because they don’t want to go through the headache of having to find another candidate and spend the energy to train them.
If getting a raise or changing jobs proves difficult, freelancing on the side is another way to bring in more money. Just use your spare time wisely, and be aware that some gig economy work, like driving for Uber or Lyft, might not be ideal. After accounting for things like the cost of gas, insurance, and car maintenance, you may be bringing in far less than you think.
And say it with us now: life is more than just money
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that many of us value time with the people we care about over things. Activities—like going for a hike with friends, say—can be fun, and have the added benefit of being free.
“It’s good for the body and really good for the soul to get outside more,” says Teutsch. “One of the best ways to get our budget under control is to just hang out more with people who spend in good ways—who want to camp for the weekend rather than stay in a very fancy hotel.”
Bell also wants to put things in perspective.
“Inflation is such a hot topic right now, but normally a little bit of inflation is actually a good thing for the economy,” she says, explaining that it usually helps to drive economic growth. “If it’s at 2 percent, that’s okay, and nobody talks about it because it’s just par for the course.”