Those that have been following my weekly posts know that we’ll be closing on our new place soon. We’re knee deep in packing, ordering a refrigerator, etc. Everything is moving fast and we’re trying to remain cool.
During this time, we’ve benefitted tremendously from the advice and help of our family and friends. We’re first time home buyers and, even though we’ve read a lot of books and have researched things on the web, nothing can replace the “in the trenches” experience of our loved ones.
With this in mind, I want to discuss some ways that asking for advice can save you quite a bit of money and some time.
Asking for advice
As we were contemplating buying a house and going through the process, we asked our homeowner friends many questions. For example, when deciding on renting vs. buying, we asked about the actual expenses.
We’d heard that old line “If you rent, you’re just throwing your money away, ” and we wanted to know if it was true. We took that information, ran the numbers for ourselves, and saw that buying would be a good option.
When deciding on a price range, our friends advised us to go below what the bank pre-approved. That tip matched up well with our mindset of going conservative on mortgage, and we listened. We wanted to get a mortgage we can afford and still have room in our budget for our other financial goals.
When asking others for advice, we’ve made it clear that we’re in need of their expertise. I think people are more comfortable sharing their thoughts if they know you really want to hear what they have to say. Some questions we asked were:
- What did you do to save money for a house down payment? Even though we were already saving, we were looking for other ways to set aside extra money.
- Are there any “gotchas” to look out for when getting a mortgage or comparing mortgage rates? We were warned to stay away from adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and, as noted above, to spend less than the bank approved.
- What are some unexpected expenses that came up? We were looking at both old and new homes, and we wanted to see what our future had in store for us so we could save accordingly.
The key when asking finance-related questions is to not get too personal and make people uncomfortable. It’s one thing to ask what they thought about their Realtor or home inspector, but it’s tacky to go ahead and ask for specific numbers unless you’re very close. The last thing you want to do is make the conversation awkward and turn people off.
Asking for help
We have a semi-retired friend and he has offered to help us paint the new place (the walls are currently white) before we move. We had a another friend help with color coordination and also let us use some of her painting supplies. Both of these friends have been a huge help in terms of saving both time and money.
We’re grateful for their help, as we aren’t particularly great when it comes to selecting color schemes and detailed painting. We do, however, do a great job rolling the paint on the walls and following directions.
Some of our other friends will also be available during the weekend to help with moving the furniture. We plan on having plenty of food and drinks available as our way of saying thank you. Taking the advice of some FiveCentNickel readers, we’re including some subs and finger foods for our friends.
Don’t be a mooch
There are some things to look out for when asking for help. In general, I don’t ask for discounts from friends if they work in retail, or if we’re asking for help in their main line of business. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m taking advantage of them, so I always offer to pay them what a “regular” customer would pay.
For example, when we were planning our wedding years ago, we were grateful that some of our friends were willing to help. They volunteered their talents as wedding gifts and we accepted. Even though they offered to help with flower arrangements, we were careful to cover all expenses.
Sometimes people who are trying to save on expenses with their wedding are just plain cheap, and try to pass on the costs to their talented and generous friends. I think that’s wrong, and can ruin a dear friendship. If you’re worried that you might cross the line, then play it safe and hire someone instead of relying on a friend.
Help is a two-way street
To have good friends, you need to be a good friend. We bend over backwards for our friends and help them out whenever we can. We’ve helped with painting and moving before with our buddies, and will surely do so again. At the same time, we’re grateful when they’re willing to do the same for us.
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all the commenters on that have shared their advice and experiences on my past posts. All of you have been a great help to my husband and me as we’ve navigated the home ownership process. For example, a commenter tipped us off to the 10% Lowes coupon that you get when you change you address. This will be a huge savings for us.
Personal finance blogs like this are a great place to share helpful ideas, so if you have any tips or stories about how you’ve helped your friends (or they’ve helped you), please share them in the comments.