Buying Your First House as Newlyweds
Myrtle Alegado: Hi, Happy Life listeners. I’m pretty excited to have the discussion today with our newlywed couple. In my opinion, it’s a topic that a lot of newlyweds, and married couples in general, want to know more about but are maybe hesitant to talk about. What is it, you ask? Well, today we’ll chat about finances and whether buying a house as newlyweds is feasible.
Welcome to Happy Life, a podcast brought to you by INC Media Audio that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m your host Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband Paul since 1999. Later we’ll hear some Bible-based advice through Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ. [Show catchphrase]
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life.
Myrtle Alegado: I’m really grateful to have Chris and Alyssa here, our newlyweds from Vista, California, to share their financial journey thus far as a married couple. Hi, Chris and Alyssa and welcome to the Happy Life Podcast.
Chris Agana: Hi, Myrtle.
Alyssa Agana: Hi, Myrtle. Thank you for having us.
Myrtle Alegado: Oh, it’s a pleasure. You know, what’s life like right now there, down in Vista, California?
Chris Agana: It’s not too bad. It’s, you know, that SoCal weather. It’s warm but nice and breezy. I know, it’s the beginning of spring now. It’s like the perfect weather so it’s been just nice and cool
Alyssa Agana: Can’t complain.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, send some of that sunshine over here to “Raincouver” as we like to call our city. Always jealous of the California sunshine. But again, it’s so great to have you here on the Happy Life Podcast. So please let us know how you met and how long you’ve been married.
Chris Agana: Alright, so Alyssa and I actually met when we were teenagers. This is back when I first moved into the area, and I actually met her at church. And I’ll have to say and admit that it was love at first sight.
Myrtle Alegado: Aww.
Chris Agana: We became friends, and got to know each other and actually dated for several years,
Alyssa Agana: Several years. And in 2019, Chris finally popped the question. And about a year later, we got married in November of 2020.
Myrtle Alegado: It’s been almost a year and a half now that you’ve been married. My understanding is you became homeowners too before you got married. So for all the engaged to be wed couples out there who are currently planning ahead, can you share how this was even possible?
Chris Agana: Yeah, sure. So we actually both grew up with parents who taught us to always save, save, and save. Growing up, we would both always hear, save more than you spend and also live below your means. So early on, we developed good saving habits. And with the money that we both save individually, we knew that we had to be strategic in how we budget our money. And we had open conversations with each other to align and establish our priorities. The first thing was our wedding, second was a down payment on the house, and third was that we wanted to have enough money left over to have a comfortable emergency fund.
Alyssa Agana: We also reached out to friends who recently bought homes to learn more about their experiences. And through that we were able to find a first homebuyers program, which helped a lot.
Chris Agana: We also held devotional prayers together daily and often in the chapel. When we put an offer on this house that we have now, we went straight to the chapel and we prayed about it. And the next day, we found out that the offer was accepted.
Myrtle Alegado : Oh, that’s fabulous. But you know, it sounds like there were so many expenses, you know, one after another. It’s like, your wedding, which you know, was it a big wedding?
Chris Agana: You know, because of COVID it was supposed to be a big wedding and it got smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and actually became a small intimate wedding, which we really appreciated. It helps us save some money, but also I think it was the wedding that God intended for us.
Myrtle Alegado: I keep saying the important thing is you’re married.
Chris Agana: Absolutely.
Myrtle Alegado: And you know, that was the number one goal right? So, it must have been a really exciting feeling when, you know, your offer was accepted. So, you know, what other expenses, in your experience, did you come across with the purchase of your home and, do you have any tips for other newlyweds out there who are going to be first-time home buyers as well?
Chris Agana: So, when people are trying to figure out if they can afford a home, oftentimes they get caught up with that big listing price, but it’s important to look at what that monthly payment will look like.
On top of your mortgage, you’ll have to determine if there’s going to be additional monthly fees. So some of these monthly fees are something called an HOA, which is a homeowner’s association fee. This is for property maintenance, and amenities. There’s also something called local community taxes. For example, here in the state of California, we have something called Mello-Roos. There’s also property tax, there’s home insurance, and depending on how much you put down for a downpayment, you may also have to pay something called PMI and this is private mortgage insurance.
There’s additional costs and fees that need to be paid for upfront, such as closing costs, there’s home inspection fees, there’s also appraisal fees. And there’s also an escrow account. So fortunately for us, our first homebuyers program provided us with a free educational course, and this helped us understand the whole process and what to expect financially. And to let everybody know, there’s a lot of free online resources.
Myrtle Alegado : Yeah, a lot of fees that kind of stack on top of one another without even realizing. Like you said, some people just look at the sticker price on the house. Like, “Okay, we can afford that.” And then they’re shocked to learn, well, no, there’s this fee, and that fee, and this expense, and that expense, like even just the home inspection fee. You know, this Mello-Roos. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? It’s not something that I’ve heard of here in Canada. So I’m not sure if it’s just in BC, but I don’t think we have that here in Canada.
Chris Agana: Sure. So in California, I’m not sure that other states have this, they may call it something else, but it’s usually in areas that are in development. So, the newer areas that have to make sure they have the roads set up, they have the schools built, and everything that you need in the community. That tax pretty much covers when people purchase the homes in developing areas.
Myrtle Alegado: Definitely sounds like there’s a lot of information to research and, you know, knowledge that you have to arm yourselves with when you’re buying a home.
But, you know, as for you two were you always on the same page in terms of financial goals or, you know, how did you even broach the subject and open up the conversation while you two were still dating?
Chris Agana: So while we were dating, we’d often talk about our future together and what we wanted in life. And we knew that we wanted a traditional wedding, which luckily we had, we also wanted to buy a house and a home for us to move into immediately right after the wedding.
In order for us to achieve these things together, we had to be open and comfortable about money, right? We had to talk about money and be as honest about dollar amounts—how much money we earn, how much money we have saved, and even how much debt we might have.
Alyssa Agana: And honestly, it was harder for me to start talking about finances. And initially, I really struggled with being, like, so open about discussing dollar amounts. But we came to the understanding that we both had to see the big picture of our financial situation, which is so important in a relationship, especially in one that’s leading into marriage.
Myrtle Alegado: Yeah, for sure. And I don’t think, you know, finances is an easy topic, at all, of conversation for most people. So, you know, what was it like when you first started having those discussions?
Chris Agana: So, having those types of discussions can be difficult and actually just really uncomfortable. But it’s really important for couples to talk about finances while dating and actually planning their future together. It helps them to better understand each other with their spending habits, current financial situation, if they have plans for pursuing education in the future, they’ll have to know if they’re going to have to take on more debt. And sometimes you’ll never know if your significant other is helping their own family with bills and expenses, so it’s good to know these things. Having an open conversation about finances also helps us to manage our expectations of how we can spend money within our relationship.
Alyssa Agana: And as we started having more serious conversations about getting married and life plans, we also became more interested in financial planning and budgeting, especially since we’re both more established in our careers and felt more financially ready at the time.
So once we got engaged, that interest grew exponentially, and we started preparing our wedding budget, and also began house hunting. And at that point, financial planning and budgeting became a necessity. And now with more than one year of marriage under our belts, we want to learn more about investing and also becoming more financially literate.
Chris Agana: So it takes a lot of maturity, and it takes a lot of trust to be honest about financial challenges that you or your significant other may be facing. And for us talking about finances actually brought our relationship to another level and we were able to understand each other a lot better.
Myrtle Alegado: So you said that you were kind of pretty stable in your careers. Do you mind if I ask what you both do for a living?
Alyssa Agana: So I currently work in the regulatory affairs department for a medical device company. Previously, I was working in a lab.
Chris Agana: And I currently work in the compliance department, specifically privacy for a health provider.
Myrtle Alegado: What are the things that you do to help each other budget, especially now as a newlywed couple?
Alyssa Agana: So, we make it a priority to set a date at the end of each month for budgeting and reviewing our expenses. We remind each other to be mindful of our spending and we’re also very honest with each other about purchases. And we try to make sure we’re on the same page especially when it comes to really big purchases, but we’re also still trying to figure out what budgeting method works best for us. Budgeting for us has always been about adjusting and adapting.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, how do you buy gifts for each other, if you have to, like, be upfront about your purchases? Then you can’t surprise each other!
Chris Agana: Well, we don’t check it to that extent.
Myrtle Alegado: Oh, okay. That’s no fun!
Chris Agana: While we were dating, and when we were engaged, we were both living with our parents. And prior to getting married, we didn’t know what our monthly expenses were going to look like until we actually got married and started living together.
The first few months were more about, I think, information gathering—trying to see how much our average monthly spending would look like. So as the first couple months passed, we were able to get a baseline and begin figuring out where we could make adjustments. We are actually considering doing something called a zero-based budgeting, where every dollar we earn has a purpose.
Myrtle Alegado: Yeah, there’s a lot of learning, definitely, in the first couple of weeks and a couple of months.
Alyssa Agana: Yeah, and when we first started tracking, we were spending a lot on dining out and coffee and things like that. And we made it like an intention to lessen our dining out and we ended up spending more on groceries. But not that much more that it met the dining out amount that we were spending initially.
Myrtle Alegado: I’m guilty of the coffee purchases sometimes. So it’s just being cognizant, I think, of the spending and like you said watching where it goes, right.
So you said something about zero-based budgeting. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and what that means, because I’m absolutely clueless over here. [laughs]
Chris Agana: So it’s pretty much, once you have an understanding of how much money is coming in monthly, you’re automating where that money’s going, each dollar pretty much. Let’s say you make $1,000 a month, you know that a certain amount’s going straight to your retirement account, a certain amount’s going straight to a certain checking account that covers your bills, a certain other amount’s going straight into your emergency fund.
It’s like you know what the purpose is for each dollar, so that if you do get that money just dropped into one account, and you don’t have a plan for it, you might just spend it when it comes your way. So having that zero-based budget, you’re almost hoping that you’re not going to spend it all so it gets to zero. But each dollar has its purpose so that there’s not just money sitting around for you to spend.
Myrtle Alegado: So you’re pretty much tracking it better than just letting it go into one account and then… Okay, I kind of understand now.
You know, I suppose there are so many ways to look at finances and budgeting and there are different approaches too, but right now I’m curious what the Bible has to say on this topic.
So at this point, we welcome back a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ, Brother Felmar Serreno. Nice to have you back on Happy Life, Brother Felmar.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hi, again, Myrtle, and great to have Chris and Alyssa here with us today. Thanks for joining the show.
You know, growing up, my parents also taught about the importance of saving up and being careful with how you spend or use what you have. So I was nodding along while Chris and Alyssa were talking about that earlier.
However, when it comes to saving up, our parents were not the first ones to teach about this. In fact, what does the Bible say about preparing for our future? Let me read for you what’s stated in the Book of Proverbs, chapter six, the verses are six to eight. We’ll quote from The New International Version:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
[Proverbs 6:6-8 New International Version]
Brother Felmar Serreno: So like I was saying earlier, our parents were not the first ones to teach about saving up. Who [were] the first? The ants were!
Myrtle Alegado: I had no clue, Brother Felmar, that the ants had all of these financial things figured out long before we did.
Brother Felmar Serreno: They had it figured out a long time ago. No, no, no, everybody. That’s just a joke, right. It is the Lord our God, who is the one teaching us about how to effectively prepare for our future. And how is God teaching us? Through His truths written in the Bible, where in this particular verse, an example is being used, namely, the ants.
Brother Felmar Serreno: What should we learn from the ants? It stores its provisions in summer, the Bible says, gathers its food at harvest. Now what do summer and harvest represent? They refer to the time to work, or the available opportunity in order for one to save for the future. So when that opportunity is there, the time when we should be saving rather than spending excessively, we should not waste that time or opportunity.
Now, what should we also bear in mind? It’s difficult to save efficiently without a plan. Do you agree, Chris and Alyssa?
Chris Agana: Yes, absolutely.
Alyssa Agana: Yes, definitely.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Now, if you’re going to make a plan, it might as well be a good one, right? That’s why seeking knowledge, doing research, taking advantage of courses out there, like what Chris and Alyssa did, this is an integral aspect of saving up for the future. And as we’ve discussed in past episodes, based on the Bible, who should we always include in our plans? Our Almighty God—seeking His guidance and favor through prayer.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Do you know why else it’s important to communicate with God and to trust in Him, even when it comes to matters like buying a home? Let me read for you what’s stated here in the book of Psalms, chapter 142, the verses are one, three down to five in The Message:
I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. “As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, Know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path.
[Psalms 142:1, 3-5 The Message]
Brother Felmar Serreno: Human as we are, there is a limit to how far ahead we can plan. Sometimes, just planning out the next day’s difficult. Add to this the many, many things that are beyond our control. Knowing this, what should we include in our prayers to God? The Bible states, “I plead with God for mercy. You know how I’m feeling, Know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path.”
And how does this apply to financial matters like buying a home? Well, sadly, we do live in a world where title and deed fraud exist, as well as home inspection scams, scams involving mortgages, and the like. Now, I don’t know if Chris and Alyssa have ever experienced this firsthand. Have you come across or know others who have been victims of things like scams or fraud?
Chris Agana: Unfortunately, yes, especially in the news.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Well, there you go. And what are these? These can be considered as traps, which are hidden from us. And what has been the experience of many? They became victims of such fraud or criminality, which became a major setback for them. Imagine trying to be diligent and honest in saving up for your future only to have it stolen from you, due to a hidden trap.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Mind you, unexpected and devastating scenarios do not only come in the form of scams but also in the form of things like calamities, natural disasters, as well as social unrest. So to everyone listening, who is the only One whom we can turn to to save us, to steer us away from traps that are hidden in our path? The Lord our God, for He is Almighty and all knowing.
In summary, newlyweds who are preparing for their future, should not be careless with the time and opportunity that God is giving us. Make every day count. Remember, too, that our earnings are part of God’s blessings to us, so let us not waste it. Rather, husband and wife ought to talk and work together on a regular basis in budgeting the income, and for this to be done in a harmonious and efficient way—let us pray about it. Our devotional prayers are crucial for God to bless and guide our plans, and to save us from any kind of trap or misfortune that we cannot foresee on our own.
Myrtle Alegado: We always appreciate the biblical advice you’re able to impart to us on the topics we discuss with our newlyweds, Brother Felmar. Thank you again for being here on Happy Life.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Thank you again, Myrtle, and God bless to Chris and Alyssa. And hello again and see you next time to all our listeners out there.
Myrtle Alegado: So, you know, having heard all of that advice from the Bible, what do you prioritize when you do your finances as newlyweds, Chris and Alyssa?
Chris Agana: So our highest priority is to set aside for [our] offering first. Then, we pay ourselves by contributing to our retirement investment accounts, then it’s our necessities like groceries, then fixed expenses and bills like our mortgage, our HOA, internet and other utilities, and then finally the remaining expenses that aren’t necessities but we still enjoy, like eating out, our coffee, and shopping, and travel.
Myrtle Alegado: So what happens if you go over your budget on, you know, dining, and coffee, and shopping?
Chris Agana: It’s okay. I don’t think we’re too strict on ourselves, right, as long as we’re not splurging. And just going back to the comment you made about the coffee thing, as long as you make a budget for it, you know, enjoy your coffee a day. You might have to trim $5 or so off the grocery list or whatever the expense is, but I like for us, if there’s something that we enjoy we’ve just got to make adjustments so that we can actually enjoy our money.
Myrtle Alegado: So move that money around, appropriate somewhere else. So do I need that blouse, or do I want the coffee?
Alyssa Agana: Exactly.
Myrtle Alegado: So has, you know, the discussion of or addressing your finances ever cause any tension in your marriage?
Chris Agana: It’s not tension, but we both have different risk tolerance. So Alyssa always keeps me grounded on decision making, and I try to expose us to other investment options. An example is that one morning, I wasn’t happy with the super low interest rate that our savings account, holding our emergency fund, was earning.
So I told Alyssa, I was like, “We are going to put all our money in the emergency fund in the stock market.” And she was like, “Whoa, whoa.” She reminded me that this emergency fund is for emergency purposes, that we have to be able to access it, you know, as soon as possible if there [are] emergencies. So that actually kept me grounded.
Alyssa Agana: And finances, in my opinion, [haven’t] caused any major tension in our relationship, but Chris has always been the more financially literate one. So when he brought up wanting to invest more in the stock market or in crypto, I didn’t understand what these things were, so I was super apprehensive about it. But he explained these to me, and in doing my own learning I began to understand more, and I felt more comfortable about making those decisions together.
Also being homeowners and being married, that really affected my mindset on spending. I think of myself as a little bit of a recovering shopaholic. I used to love shopping, I still do.
Myrtle Alegado: I can relate. [laughs]
Alyssa Agana: Oh, yeah! But once we became homeowners, all I could think about was the mortgage. And with being married, it’s not just my money. I’m sharing that money with my spouse.
So there was a time where I felt like I wasn’t allowed to buy anything that was just for myself, unless I really, really needed it. It took a lot of adjusting and being open and honest with Chris about it. And of course being the understanding and encouraging husband that he is, he reassured me that I shouldn’t feel this way and that we just have to make a budget for it, like he was saying. And I’m still working on finding that balance and shifting my mindset, but it has improved significantly.
Myrtle Alegado: So be honest, when he wanted to move everything to stocks, you know, what was your reaction?
Alyssa Agana: I was like, “Hold up.” [laughs]
Myrtle Alegado: Wait, what? [laughs]
But you know, your top three financial planning or budgeting tips, what would they be for the engaged couples out there or newly married couples?
Chris Agana: Sure. So I would say that number one, it would be to have an open communication about finances. We have to understand each other’s financial situations and spending habits. And also talk about your goals, because these can impact and be impacted by financial decisions.
Number two, as a couple, know where your money is going. I would suggest having a spreadsheet or an app for tracking your spending. I always go back to how our parents would have to use, you know, checkbooks to manually balance their money, right. So we have it a lot easier nowadays. So take the time to prepare a realistic budget and always remember to compromise.
Number three would be to prioritize an emergency fund, because you are no longer responsible just for yourself, and emergencies happen so you always want to be prepared.
And our biggest tip would be to pray for your finances, your livelihood, and your decision making, so that our Almighty God can always guide you.
Myrtle Alegado: If there are individuals out there who never grew up with the great advice that your parents instilled in you to save, save, save, you know, or if one spouse is a spender and one is a saver—I’m the spender, I’m the spender. I admit it—how can people start to turn around their habits and find some balance?
Chris Agana: Well, we never think it’s too late to start, right? We’ve heard of stories from other couples who are able to completely turn around their financial situation. So I would say that the first step is for both people within the relationship, they have to acknowledge and agree that a change needs to be made—and then actually take action.
Alyssa Agana: And then once you’re on the same page, you need to assess your current financial situation and understand where all your money is going. We speak from experience when we say tracking your expenses, and seeing your numbers, will be alarming initially. But it will help you identify and find where you may be overspending and where you can make cuts.
Chris Agana: And then from there, you have to establish a budget and set some savings goals. Find a budget method that works best for you, and then within that budget, set a savings goal. Also set yourself up for success, and once you meet that plan you’ll be on your way to achieve that goal.
Alyssa Agana: We also recommend automating your savings. We both read a book which recommended setting up an automatic transfer of a specific amount from your paycheck to a savings or investment account, and that way you won’t be tempted to spend that money.
Lastly, it’s to use your resources. Seek out people around you who would be willing to provide any advice. There’s also countless free resources online to help you get started as well.
Myrtle Alegado: So, you know, with all of your knowledge regarding finances, did either of you take a course about this or was this just like self-learning?
Chris Agana: Self-learning, mainly. I mean, I think I took a personal finance class in high school, but the only thing I remember is balancing a checkbook back then. And yeah, I think a lot of it’s been through YouTube and podcasts and just trying to learn.
We also reached out to some older people at our Church, who we look as mentors, and of course our parents. We asked them, you know, “What’s the best advice that you [can] give as far as finances?”
Alyssa Agana: We also listen to a lot of podcasts as well. I think I learn best when I’m listening to something while I’m doing something else. So that’s been really helpful. Chris has sent me several podcasts to listen to, and I found them very enlightening.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, I find it admirable that, you know, you’re both pretty disciplined when it comes to your finances. I think maybe that’s what a lot of people have to work towards, is disciplining themselves in terms of spending. But you know for you two, what are your next financial goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
Chris Agana: So our next financial goals are to fine-tune our budgeting, level up even more on our financial literacy. We also want to establish multiple income streams, preferably passive that could be through, maybe, real estate or even content creation. And we want to learn more about investment options to make the best of our earnings.
We’ve actually become very interested in reaching financial independence at an early age so that we are able to focus more time on our duties at church and our families. We plan to do this by learning more through books, online resources, as we mentioned, podcasts, reaching out to others, trying to find more mentors, and of course, through faith and prayer.
Myrtle Alegado: Content creation. Do tell, do tell. Are you willing to share?
Chris Agana: You know, I think just being on here and going through some questions, I kind of want us to be able to help other couples through content creation; whether it’s through blogging, or social media, in podcasting. I think it’d be really beneficial, especially fitting our particular demographic. What do you think?
Alyssa Agana: Sure.
Chris Agana: [laughs]
Myrtle Alegado: Alyssa’s like, “Sure, honey, whatever you say.” She’ll just be your trusted sidekick.
Chris Agana: She’s going to be the face of it.
Myrtle Alegado: So how has, you know, your faith and prayer helped both of you in your relationship when it comes to dealing with finances, and saving, and budgeting?
Alyssa Agana: So we held devotional prayers for our wedding and home buying process. And now that we’re married, we continue in our devotional prayers together. And we always remember to include our finances, our livelihood, and for guidance in our decision making.
Chris Agana: Yeah, and God has definitely blessed us with amazing opportunities and has helped us financially. So even though we make our own goals and have our own hopes for the future, we know that we can’t get there without His guidance.
Myrtle Alegado: So your positive advice to those newlyweds and engaged-to-be-wed couples out there is that it is possible to be newlywed homeowners. Yes?
Alyssa Agana: Definitely.
Chris Agana: Absolutely.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, you know, I thank you so much for being here with us on Happy Life today and for sharing all of your knowledge and what your financial journey has been like thus far as newlyweds. So, you know, it was really great to have you both here on Happy Life.
Chris Agana: Thank you very much.
Alyssa Agana: Thank you for having us. This is a lot of fun.
Myrtle Alegado: And if you ever come up to Vancouver, you can come up and give me some tips so I can stop spending.
Avoiding the topic of finances in your relationship is an easy thing to do, but it isn’t really beneficial. So, just rip the band-aid off so to speak, and jump into that discussion with your fiance or spouse, and get going on your own financial journey.
And that’s it for our discussion today. To learn more about Christian relationships, please visit www.incmedia.org. If you’d like to say hi, send us a question, or see who our newlywed guests are, you can visit our Instagram account: @happylife.podcast. Please also remember to share our podcast with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know.
Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team! We’re so glad you joined us today and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.
GET TO KNOW US NAVIGATING LIFEINSIPIRING STORIES