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“I Can’t Afford A House” Syndrome

Posted By Jim On 08/25/2008 @ 12:06 pm In Frugal Living | 3 Comments

On a drive up to a local restaurant last week to celebrate our friend’s final Master’s class, my wife and I were listening to this segment of Marketplace [3] on commuter bikes. The segment talked about how more people are biking to work and how expensive these commuter bikes were. They range anywhere from a couple hundred to five figures! It’s an astonishing price to pay for a bicycle but here’s the truly astonishing part about it – many pay without any reason to.

First, Marketplace talked to Richard Fries of Bikes Belong [4], a bicycling advocacy group, and he said that you just need a simple bike to get you from A to B. All you need “is the bike that Curious George had. You know what I mean? Fenders, chain guard, a little rack to strap your books onto. Does wheelies. Gets around town.”

Then they talked to Susan Brady, just a regular Jane consumer who bikes every day to work:

Brady: I mean, the cool thing about bikes is you can spend a little or spend a lot, and they’re all gonna pretty much do the same thing.

Cole (Marketplace reporter): That’s what I’m wondering, why you would spend a lot.

Brady: Cause I thought I’m never gonna be able to buy a house, so I might as well buy a nice bike.

Woah. Now, it’s one thing to justify the price with good reasons and another to justify it like that. For example, high end mountain bikes are expensive because they are made of carbon fiber (to be lighter), have high end shock absorbers (to handle the rugged terrain), and other similar characteristics that improve performance and durability. While you do pay a premium, it’s likely that most seasoned mountain bikers recognize what they are getting for their money. This is the very reason why I advocated Acting Your Age Financially [5] and how you shouldn’t hit the premium aisle before checking out the discount bin.

While the Marketplace segment might have had some editing involved, the fact that Brady’s best response was that “she can’t afford a house” is astonishing. That reasoning isn’t uncommon though. I had a friend once email out to a bunch of our friends lamenting the fact that home prices are so high in our area. There’s no way he could afford a home here. That’s when someone pointed out that the reason he can’t afford a home is because he has a boat and a new truck to tow the boat.

We all make decisions and trade offs, don’t say you can’t afford a house and then go out and buy a ridiculously expensive bicycle. You sound foolish and it’s insulting, especially to all the hard working Americans scraping by and saving all of their money so they can afford a place of their own.

(Photo: kamshots [6])


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[1] Tweet: http://twitter.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/i-cant-afford-a-house-syndrome.html

[3] this segment of Marketplace: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/08/18/commuter_bikes/

[4] Bikes Belong: http://www.bikesbelong.org/

[5] Acting Your Age Financially: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/act-your-age-financially.html

[6] kamshots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamshots/2258936308/sizes/o/

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