I Save to See the World, Not to Buy a House.


Lana Turner
Lana Turner not worrying about a mortgage. Image source.


In the midst of everyday working life, we’re deciding what to do with the money we make. Some of us don’t have plans; what comes in goes out, and that’s fine. I’m at an age where the majority of my friends have bought a house or are saving for a mortgage. And while I find it admirable that they have this goal and are working hard to achieve it, it’s not my life goal. I’ve never been great at budgeting and the idea of being in that much debt for thirty-five years scares the pants off me. I’ve been lucky enough to have never been in debt, and the money I save goes towards things that help me live a happy life. And right now, travelling the world makes me happy. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can put away some money each month, and I take it seriously.

Writing for a travel company has its perks. Now calm down, I don’t get paid to go to all the amazing places I write about, but I do get to spend my days researching my next holiday. Because of this, I’ve managed to perfect the art of ‘vacation day mathematics’. My partner and I take the time to plan our holidays for the year, making sure to almost always have the next trip away planned. Why? We find it helps us stay sane. Having something to look forward to on days that aren’t going well or during a particularly stressful time can do wonders for your state of mind. It’s akin to the mad rush up to Christmas when you’re so busy trying to get all the gifts bought and get to the end of the year in work. But you deal with it all because it’s festive and lovely outside and soon you’ll get to eat lots of food and drink lots of wine with your loved ones.

I’m sometimes asked if I own the house I rent, or if I’m going to buy soon. Some people understand me when I say no without having to justify. Others, my mother, for example, find the concept of not owning property a little harder to grasp. And why shouldn’t she? The big three, as archaic as it sounds (she’s not that old), were prevailing expectations of my mother’s time: get married, buy a house, have kids.

Things are more fluid these days, which makes justifying my decision harder. But I’ve attempted to do just that in this article. It’s a worthwhile exercise and a personal decisions check-in if nothing else.

Travel Vs. Mortgage — the Mental Health Effect

Alice Boyles, a clinical psychologist and author, cites a creative generation study to make the point that travel broadens the mind. Asking students to list as many means of transport as possible and equipping half of the group with the knowledge that the scientist who founded the study was from Greece. The other half were told the scientist was from Indiana; where the students went to school. The study showed that those in the first group listed not only more transport options but made reference to ancient inventions and futuristic spaceships. The point: that gaining distance from our problems at home relaxes us more and opens our mind to creative solutions to these problems.

We’re more likely to try new things and open ourselves up to new experiences, people, and cultures when we are not in the bosom of our own. This excites me and keeps me yearning to travel. Travel can change your personality. Consider yourself a bit stuffy? A tad boring? Travel! You’ll become more spontaneous, be less judgemental and learn new things faster. Relationships will be more meaningful, and you’ll be more creative.

Buying a house is stressful, or so I’ve heard. The effect the entire process has on your mental health has been well documented. And what happens when the stress gets too much, and you settle for an inferior quality house? Yep, more anxiety. The Guardian reported that living in poor housing is bad for your mental health. The article also talks a great deal about the related stress. A survey they referenced found that 33% of people say housing costs are causing stress and depression in their family; 25% are kept awake at night by the stress of paying their mortgage and 25% say housing costs are causing arguments with their partner and other family members.

Here’s How Travelling Keeps Me from Going mad

  1. Travel makes me a happy, well-rounded person. This means my relationships and the people I care about see this person and they don’t feel the need to kill me! 🙂
  2. I don’t worry about falling into scary debt because I save for this luxury. Screw buying a house and forever surviving under the crushing pressure of a mortgage, I’ll be in the Bahamas sippin’ on a Mojito!
  3. I learn new things. About the places I visit, the people and cultures I encounter, and as clichéd as it sounds, about myself. Every time I visit a new country, I get to see a new side of myself. It’s enlightening.
  4. I get a constant (ish) top-up of good ol’ vitamin D. I think we all have a mild case of weather related depression, so saying hello to the sun once every couple of months can be medicinal.
  5. It keeps my mind active. Travelling somewhere new every few months gives me the chance to research lots about the place I’m going, practice my language skills and gets my financial brain thinking by crunching spending money numbers. More importantly, it gives me much needed time and space to read as many books as I can.
  6. I’m almost certain the process of buying a house is more maddening than the process of going on a holiday. So less stress overall.

Travel Vs. Mortgage — Lifestyle Choices

Deciding not to buy a house has a knock-on effect on the rest of your life choices. It’s not that more income is disposable, it’s just dispersed in others areas. I don’t save for a mortgage, but I do save to travel. It means the same amount of saving is being done (kind of), but the outcome is different. I’ve already talked about what effect it has on me mentally, but it has an effect on my lifestyle choices too. Being strict about saving for travel means I can’t throw money at other things I’d like, just like saving for a mortgage.

My partner and I decided to move in together earlier this year. We both moved into a new home together and decided to take the Dublin rent crisis head on and give it the middle finger in the process. Sure, we’re probably spending more money on rent than we would on mortgage repayments, but that’s the choice we made. It was a big decision to make and we knew that the excess money we would be paying for the luxury of renting and not buying could be put to another use. But we decided that it wouldn’t be a better use, for us. A better use for our extra cash at the end of the month is putting it towards travel. That’s a decision we made. It’s the lifestyle choice we made.

Travel Vs. Mortgage — Relationships

Do you know what the only one thing more stressful than buying a house is? It’s divorce. That’s what a This is Money (UK) survey found. Buying a house is an incredibly stressful and challenging time for even the most stable relationship. It doesn’t matter if it’s your partner, parent, best bud or sibling, relationships are going to suffer when you’re going through the motions of buying a house.

Although travelling the world comes with its share of strain on a relationship too, it’s a different kind of argument and a different kind of stress. It’s a disagreement about whether to take the bus or the train in the newly discovered country or how to order more wine in the local language.

Travel Vs. Mortgage — Personal Finances

My generation has grown up in a fuzzy in between time. Wise enough to know the struggles of renting in a city and how difficult it is to save for a mortgage deposit, but also grown out of the mindset our parents had at our age that buying a house was the next step in becoming an adult. To some extent, this mentality is abating culturally, but the country has yet to catch up. Owning your own home is not the order of the day it was in our parents time, but not a lot of alternative options are being made available. Rent prices are a joke, housing shortages are a real problem and moving abroad isn’t the cut and dry decision it was in the noughties for generation emigration. The fuzziness in the middle? Not enough money in our pockets to rent forever and not enough money to save for a mortgage to future-proof ourselves.

None of this is news. But rather than get bogged down in the hopelessness of it all, I plan what finances I can right now around my mental health. That’s not to say this will always be the plan, but as long as the cards are stacked in this unfavourable way, I’m not buying a house.

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