Strategies for a young married couple in financial straits and a fixer-upper home

Strategies for a young married couple in financial straits and a fixer-upper home

Renee EllisonOct 1, '23

How does a wise young couple balance the need to make their house a home and the need to earn money?

Big picture

God limits space (there is only so much room in this house), time (only so much time in the day), and finances (everyone must live within a budget) for all people on earth.  It turns out these God-imposed limitations in life are a good thing because they force us to define ourselves (chose priorities) within those limits.  If we had unlimited time, space and finances we really wouldn't know who we are because all things would be possible.

Re: financial limitations (parameters)

Therefore, it is paramount that a couple live within a written budget and put themselves squarely within their existing income streams until they have built a good solid emergency fund of several thousand dollars and have built a substantial nest egg in their younger married years that then begins to earn them interest for old age.

Given that reality:

It might be good for the husband to take all available work, even with relatives, if they pay him.  No freebies.  No free labor, no giftings of self and effort until your own house is actually livable.  Find out what the going rate is for these jobs to get that work done by anyone else, and set your charge accordingly.  The financial principle here: if money is flowing anywhere near you (and in your sphere of capabilities) consider jumping into that income stream until it dries up (it doesn't always flow).  Other people's finances grow tight and then that affects what they are able to hire.   So the offer to pay you for work today from any source might not be there tomorrow.

Because of the severe financial global rapids up ahead, you may want to balance the above advice with your other priority of stabilizing your own living situation.  If you do not yet have children and if each of you has money-making prospects, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of giving yourselves a year to live on a single salary while one of you works gang-busters to make your home habitable.  That would be a nice result, but some of the headlines in recent months have been warning that we are headed for an economic downturn.  In that case, perhaps the weight would be toward making this a money-making time, even if it causes delays in your home remodels.  At least, you could evaluate the possibility of removing the stress of speedily and thoroughly fixing up your house up and instead focus of making it basically livable before wintertime, on some makeshift, do-able level.

Here are examples of possible home how-tos:

  • Throw large cheap, even used, area rugs over the bare floors.
  • Throw some tiles over just the biggest leaks in the roof, or caulk, or car tires on large tarps over those troublesome spots; i.e. only repair the roof in spots for right now.
  • Arrange all kitchen objects in open wooden crates stacked on top of each other along one wall, if the cupboards don't work or fall apart. OR ask a contractor (someone who replaces cupboards in high-end homes) to be on the lookout for a fine set of cupboards he’s about to rip out on his next project.
  • Get your things organized and do-able as soon as possible, as if you have to be fully functional by nightfall. Go for temporary solutions to everything, so that life can start to flow.  Then and only then, go to work on your highest priorities at deeper levels, crossing them off a master list  one by one.


Make yourself one gigantic Iong list, perhaps of 100 projects or things needing to be done.  Break large projects into multiple smaller projects .  Now post that list in a prominent place, perhaps a door in the hallway or kitchen...and every time one or both of you get a free minute, even ten minutes, or a half an hour, go over to that wall, do SOME little thing and cross it off your master list.  This will make you feel successful as you go.  This list also frees you up from impulsive thoughts that get you off track of the most important ways to spend your time at the moment, and also enables you to add projects as you think of them.

Next, determine what are your absolute highest priorities off that list and tackle things in that order—the projects that involve greater spans of time.  Oddly enough, your highest priorities might surprise you as to what they are....they might not even be the house projects, but rather getting both cars in sure working order.  Delay all cosmetic repairs until functional things are repaired.  

This strategy can remove you from being so ripe for other people to use your brawn and absorb your time.  Your list becomes your avenue of triumph.  Visually seeing the list every time you walk down the hall is vital to the success of this approach.  Applying pencil to paper is your avenue of reducing that overwhelmed fog. 

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