Illustration by Sana Bansal for 1 Finance Magazine

Early in our lives, my husband and I had decided one thing: we would not live to pay loans. It was a conscious choice. We were doing well, we could afford most things that we wanted, and we didn’t want to borrow money to buy what we couldn’t afford. Case in point: a house.

I still remember the day, almost 18 years ago, when a broker, whom our friend had forced us to meet, had commented on our meagre budget. “You cannot afford a house in Gurgaon with that — you will need a joint loan!” His intention may have been to shame us into spending more than our means, but it only helped make our resolve stronger — we wouldn’t buckle under societal pressure to acquire property, only to keep paying loans off. There was another reason: as a young couple planning a family, we wanted flexibility. I was sure that I did not want to work long hours leaving a baby behind; I wanted the liberty to stay home should I want to. My husband and I were clear that within his single salary, we would rather save for our children’s education than pay home loans.

And so, when everyone around us was busy buying houses and decorating them, we were vacationing around the world. When my friends were slaving to pay EMIs, I had left the rat race to be at home with my growing children. When they were renovating their homes, already old and decrepit, we simply moved to bigger and newer apartments. We did not have a home to call our own, but we made every home we lived in ours. And while there were many reasons to stress, paying a big loan was not one of them. Until now, that is.

Some weeks ago, our current landlord requested us to move out. It was sudden and unexpected. The lease had just been renewed, but his reason was genuine, and we had to find another place. It was an inconvenience, yet I was certain of finding another suitable house soon enough, not knowing what awaited — in a matter of weeks, all the available houses around ours had been taken, and the rent had skyrocketed, such that the EMIs we once dreaded now looked easier to pay.

And so, at 43, for the first time I found myself questioning my choice. Was it a good decision to not buy a home when we could? Did I even need to stay home with the kids? Was this a big mistake? The thoughts have kept me awake for weeks. My children, now grown up, have been questioning me too. “When will we buy a place? We cannot live like this forever,” exclaimed the 14-year-old recently. “I will not leave this house! Can’t you buy it from uncle?” sobbed the younger.

The thing about money is that no one else can decide what you do with yours, and you, yourself, are mostly unsure too. In the past two decades, I have seen many people invest in homes — some got lucky and seem happy, but others have lost their life earnings on bad deals. Buying a home, according to me, remains a gamble where only a few hit a jackpot. Even though my husband and I could stretch and buy a home today, we are unsure of doing so. What if the lakhs we pay never yield anything? What if I put everything in a so-called dream home and am left with nothing for my old age? What if something happens to us and the children’s future isn’t secure?

And so, even though at this stage I find myself longing for a home that I can truly call my own — from where I do not have to move because someone wants me to, or because I cannot pay the rent — I choose to stay on my side of the fence. This means choosing to move out of the neighbourhood we currently live in, into a house that may be smaller or older, but one whose rent would be cheaper and save us a large amount of money every month.

The math is simple: the ₹1,00,000 in EMI or an additional ₹50,000 in rent that we would pay every month to acquire a perfect house in a perfect place can now be invested to fund the children’s higher education and our quiet retirement in the future. It may be hard to move, settle, and stay in a not-so-perfect place, but it is not impossible. As a family that has always prioritised time over money, peace over stress, and our future over the present, managing finances and budgeting our expenses is second nature to us. And while I may not be very pleased with my situation, I am happy to be debt-free. As for the home, I’ve learnt that I can make any place I go to my own in a matter of days — and that’s all that matters.

Anubhuti Krishna is a writer based in New Delhi. She finds ways to combine her passion for places, spaces, and food in her travels. 

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