Homeownership: One young couple’s commitment to getting there

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Ivelisse Estes, 20-something and founder of the blog Carnation Dreams, grew up in New York City. While watching her favorite TV shows in her family’s 17th-floor living room, she quickly fell in love with the idea of a classic American house. “It seemed like people were always storming upstairs when they were upset or heading upstairs to get space,” she says. “I joke that I don’t care how small it is—I want a house with levels.”

In college, Ivelisse met her now-husband Thomas. They discovered it wasn’t just an alma mater that the couple had in common. “We both grew up in apartments but loved to visit our out-of-town family with houses and backyards,” she says. As the young newlyweds settled into an apartment together—blending furniture and décor for the first time—they began brainstorming what their eventual home might look like. But with no savings in the bank and student loans to repay, the dream of owning initially felt unreachable.

A new way to manage (and think about) money

Thomas moved all of their bills to automatic payment plans, so they were easier to monitor. Ivelisse started putting the money she earns from her blog toward a down payment (and closing costs). They both created a tight monthly budget, but allocated a modest amount each for small indulgences. (“I tend to eat my money,” laughs Ivelisse.)

But tightening their financial belts hasn’t meant living in a fun-free zone. Relaxing movie nights on the couch have replaced trips to the theater. When dining out, they enjoy their entrees and simply steer clear of the appetizer and dessert menu. And for Thomas’ last birthday, Ivelisse resisted the urge to swing by the mall and instead made him a handmade painting, which was more personal (not to mention irreplaceable).

And daydreaming together about the house they’ll one day own has been a surprisingly fun and effective pastime: They look at townhomes in the neighborhood they’ve set their heart on, debate décor and furniture, and muse often about what life will be like once they’re ready for a bigger space.

They’re on track to have a down payment—close to 10 percent of the home price—saved up in three to five years.

“It was a little overwhelming at first, to think about saving up enough and listening to everyone’s opinions about how to buy and when to buy,” Ivelisse says. “Now we can see that we’re making progress, and we’ll get there.”

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