Financial Wounds Heal with Planning, Discipline, Determination

“Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems, with total discipline we can solve all problems.”

— M. Scott Peck, M.D., The Road Less Traveled

If you’re like the majority of would-be homeowners today grappling with financial difficulties, take heart. The American Dream of owning a home is within your reach.

No matter how bad your financial situation is today, there are steps you can take to improve your ability to buy a home. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2009 Housing Opportunity Pulse Survey, down payment and closing costs are among the greatest obstacles to buying a home. Home prices are down and while it’s a buyers’ market, the current economic climate is tough right now. People are concerned about job security. High prices are taking huge bites out of tight budgets.

Fight the frustration with the best weapons of all, planning, discipline and determination.

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D. said, “Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems, with total discipline we can solve all problems.”

The desire to own a home is only the first step. It’s a good step, but it’s one that requires careful consideration. How badly to you want to own a home? To what lengths will you go to achieve your dream? It’s okay to brainstorm – dream even – about the home you will one day own. Dreaming is never enough. Action is required. There’s no better time than right now to get started.

1. Write it down.

Get your dreams out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Ask yourself some tough questions and write down the answers. Here are some examples of questions you might ask. If you have a partner, include that partner in the conversation:

Why do I want to buy a home?

When can I realistically expect to be able to buy a home?

When will I buy a home?

What kind of a home will I buy?

Where will my new home be located?

What are the most important considerations in searching for my home?

How much should I expect to pay for a home?

How much money will I need to make a down payment on my home?

How much should I expect to pay for closing costs?

How long will I remain in my first home?

2. Examine obstacles.

This step requires total honesty. What is keeping you from achieving your dream? Systematically examine every obstacle. Evaluate reasons for the existence of each obstacle and identify multiple solutions.

3. Set goals.

Start from the end. Imagine where you will be in one year, two years or five years. Draw a road map if you have to and label the path you will take to get to where you want to be. Be sure to include the hurdles you will have to jump over and hoops you will have to jump through. There will be mountains to climb and rivers to cross. Now that you have identified the obstacles, you can deliberately eliminate them one at a time.

Some obstacles on your list might be:

  • Overspending
  • High debt-to-income ratio
  • Poor credit score
  • Lack of savings
  • Not enough income

Some possible solutions on your list might be:

Overspending

Track spending for two weeks to see where money leaks occur in your budget. Create a strict budget. Separate wants from needs. Find ways to cut back such as packing a home lunch instead of eating out, carpooling to save gas, renting movies to watch at home instead of going to a theater.

High debt-to-income ratio

Make a list of creditors. List them in order based on the amount you owe each. Concentrate on paying off the smallest bills first. When one bill is paid, take the monthly amount of money you spent on that bill and apply it to the next. Make a commitment to avoid taking on any additional unnecessary debt.

Poor credit score

Now that you’re accepting responsibility for your finances you can begin to improve your credit score today. Get a copy of your credit report. Federal law entitles you to one free credit report in a 12-month period from each major credit reporting agency. You can easily obtain your free report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Dispute any errors. You can also call the three major nationwide consumer credit reporting companies for your free report:

Do whatever you have to do to get in good standing with your creditors. Call them, negotiate with them, keep the promises you make to them. Show a sincere effort to rebuild your credit and you will find debtors are willing to help you achieve your goals. Pay your bills on time.

Lack of savings

Pay your bills, but pay yourself first. The loss of a job, illness, emergency repairs, travel and other unplanned expenses will throw your carefully-planned budget into chaos if you’re not prepared. Identify a certain percentage of your income – start small if you have to – and put it away in an emergency fund. Eventually your emergency fund will grow and you will start a new savings account for your down payment!

Not enough income

If your expenses are higher than your income and you have shaved as many frills as possible from your spending, it may be time to take on a second job. Also, consider selling personal items you no longer need and are willing to part with in order to live your dream of owning a home. Look for higher-paying promotion opportunities at work.

4. Design your plan.

Your plan will include specific dates, goals and road markers on your map to success. Create a timeline and monitor it carefully. Review your plan each night before you go to bed. Identify milestones and celebrate when you reach those milestones. These can include paying off a bill, acquiring a certain amount of savings, reaching a goal income level and more.

5. Visualize yourself in your new home.

Can you see it? Can you feel the warmth of your new home around you? Can you actually imagine yourself living the American dream? Do it often. Close your eyes and feel the satisfaction of achieving your goal – a goal that once seemed impossible. Talk openly about the day you will move into your new house. Stay positive, focused and committed.