In late 2001, my wife and I were tired of renting. With a second child on the way, we knew the little two-bedroom apartment was about to get crowded. We looked at our combined income and realized that we might could swing a house, if we kept our sights low. And if our credit was good enough.
It turned out that our credit was great. Credit may be a score, but really, it's a series of Pass/Fail tests. That match play never showed how close to the bone I'd gotten at times-- only that I'd managed to pay my bills. Nowhere on it was reported how I had several times pawned my shotgun, or my .45, to make the rent check. (And then scurried back to pick them up at the next pay check.)
So we bought a little 19 year-old 1440 square foot fixer-uper for $70,000. We fixed it up as we lived in it, doing most of the work ourselves. We lived happily. 5 or 6 years later, we sold it for $96 grand to the first person who looked at it. I think she got a heckuva deal.
We put our little profit in the bank, and rented for a year and a half, until we saw our current fixer-upper. We plunked down about $70k for this foreclosed-on old house, and then spent about $30k fixing it up, and moved in. I still need to re-plumb the master bath's sink.
During the course of all of this, we've been driving the same old second-hand Civic, and my wife has picked up a salvage title Saturn.
I'm not trying to poor-mouth. I've got it pretty good. Damned good, in fact. My credit is just as good now as it was when I applied for the mortgage on that first house, and we're still meeting payments. Sometimes we even go out to eat. :) But I don't have a lot of extra; there is a moratorium on gun purchases until grad school is over with.
What I will NOT have to do is beg my neighbor to bail me out, for having promised to pay more than I could afford.
And if I sound a little resentful for having to bail my neighbor out for having bought a new house, and having parked a new car in the driveway of it every day, then by golly, I've managed to accurately convey my feelings on this issue.