Why does house size matter? Bigger is better, right? Apparently so because in the last 45 years the average new single family home in the United States is 1000 square feet bigger! Another way to look at that is the average square foot of house per person has gone from 551 square feet to 1058 square feet – nearly doubling! Two reasons: bigger homes and fewer people living in each home. It looks like people really do want room to rumble.

Source – AEI article – New US homes today are 1000 square feet larger than in 1973 and living space per person has nearly doubled.

House Size Inflation and the Road to Financial Independence?

Puff, puff, puff. US homes are getting bigger and bigger, but does that help us on our road to financial independence? I would argue no. More house is more of everything. Time. Money. Distraction. Worry.

  • More stuff. Not many people leave their house unfilled. If there’s space, then there’s more stuff in it. Spare bedroom? More stuff – setup for guests, office, arts and craft room, or workout room. Bigger family room than before? More stuff – bigger TV, sectional couch for 12, bar area. Bigger garage? More stuff – boat, extra car, three bikes for everyone. Bottom line – bigger house = more stuff.
  • More utilities, insurance, and taxes. Yes, the bigger the house, all of these costs will be higher. More air inside the house to heat and cool. Higher value home will lead to higher property taxes and higher home insurance costs.
  • More upkeep. More things and perhaps more expensive things to get broken and wear out over time inside and outside the house. Carpets, paint, sprinkler systems. Also the potential for more work needed outside the house to keep up the lawn, gardens, and outdoor living spaces.

The Pressure is Building in Here

Putting that all together, a bigger house drives more and more non-discretionary spending. The items above become “have to” expenses because everyone wants  a comfortable home as well as the competitive drive to keep up with the Joneses. If you look at your budget for the split between non-discretionary (=work) and discretionary (=fun), then the mix gets heavier and heavier to the non-discretionary (=work) side. I have experienced this myself. I could feel the squeeze of more and more pressure to “keep that job” and “don’t slip up”.  Maybe that explains what’s left of my head of hair! Not only was it the financial aspects, but also time to maintain and do the needed upkeep. After all the needed time was spent, there was a whole lot less connection time left for family and friends. The house went from home sweet home to home work work.

What’s Enough?

That’s a good question to ask yourself. What is enough? What’s the right balance between a pleasant, comfortable home and one that becomes the albatross around your neck? Think of the pressure freedom from simply living in the right sized house – more non-discretionary (=fun) dollars are available for higher purposes like long term goals, experiences, and personal growth as well as more time. The ever precious commodity of time which we all want more of, but can never seem to find.

Homework:

  • What would you do with a few extra hours a week that came from less home upkeep and maintenance? What are those items that you always want to get after only if you had a little more free time?
  • How would you reallocate extra money from the simpler lifestyle of an “enough” house? How would you feel with less pressure to meet the higher monthly hurdle from an inflated and super sized house?
  • What is enough? Think about your current home. How would you grade your home for being enough versus too much? What would motivate you to make a change? What stops you from taking short term action for your long term good?

Please share some of your thoughts, stories, and perspectives around your own home ownership experiences and what you see in your circle of community. What drives your choices to own a home or not? Where you choose to live? How you sized your home for your purchase decision?

I help people like you who are living real lives with real financial challenges to breakthrough to new possibilities for their financial health.

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Doug Drenckpohl