Ask the Experts

Pacing Purchases

I’m graduating this year, and so is my longtime girlfriend. We have some big plans, but we don’t totally agree on how we want to spend our money. We both have jobs lined up and we both have some help from our parents so, we can afford to make some big purchases–but we can’t afford to get all of what we want, so it’s become kind of an issue.

We both agree that we want to buy a house rather than rent, although we’re not sure yet how we’re going to manage who owns what (we’re not married yet, but that’s coming soon, I think!). We want to live near the shore and I am very convinced that I want a boat–just a little one, obviously, not a yacht or anything. Meanwhile, she wants certain appliances and other really specific stuff for the house, and some of it is really expensive. She thinks I’m being frivolous, and I think she’s being a little intense–we don’t even know yet what sorts of appliances will be installed in the house we buy, and she already wants to replace them! Any advice on figuring out how to divvy up our budget?

It sounds as if you have some big plans for your post-graduate years! It’s good to have financial goals, and it’s hard to give specific advice about your finances without knowing more about your income and your existing savings. With that said, it sounds like your spending plan is very ambitious–something that you seem to recognize as you wrestle with the competing priorities that you and your partner have.

It’s not that the things you’re considering aren’t good uses of money. The luxury appliance experts at say that high-end ovens, dishwashers, and other kitchen appliances can improve the resale value of a home and reap energy savings while also delivering exceptional everyday performance. And the used boat dealers at Boat Crazy say that it’s possible to find a boat that fits your budget at almost any age. But, while both of these things and your home itself can and perhaps should be in your long-term financial plans, you may want to reconsider your purchasing schedule.

College graduates make good money these days–an average of $50,556 a year right out of college, according to recent figures. But with so many Americans struggling with budgeting and finances–31% of us are just barely getting by–it’s worth remembering that it’s possible to go into debt with any income. Your parents and older friends took years to establish the lifestyle they have now, so don’t feel like you need to match it right out of school! Consider spreading out your purchasing schedule and achieving some of your financial goals later in life. The average age of a boat buyer, for instance is 53 years old. Can you put off buying yours a bit longer and save instead, so that you don’t become one of the 34% of Americans who has saved no money for retirement?

Only you know your specific financial situation, but it may be that the time has come for you and your partner to have a serious talk about your purchase plans–not to choose one person’s priorities over the other’s, but to reevaluate your plans as a whole and push back your big spending goals in order to create a more secure financial future.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett

Miriam Metzinger is a regular contributor and editor for the financial website, Seeking Alpha.