Give Me Back My Five Bucks

6 things I’ve learned from watching home buying shows

Over the weekend I watched two full seasons of My First Home on Netflix. Yes, I said seasons.

I couldn’t help myself – I love home buying shows for so many different reasons. I love comparing Vancouver real estate to the rest of North America, and also other places in the world. I love learning about their budgets, expectations, style, and renovation reveals. And still, even to this day, I find it insane that a $200k house in a small town in the U.S. would be worth $3 million if it were located here in Vancouver. Sometimes when watching home shows, I get envious, sometimes I’m puzzled, confused, or irrationally angry … but I love them and I always come back for more.

Here are 6 take-aways I learned from binge watching My First Home on Netflix:

Men are obsessed with man caves

What is the deal with man caves? Why is this even a thing? It just seems really weird to me that men get a special space in the house that’s all their own to “get away” from their wife and children – where they can shut the door and drink beer and watch football and play video games with their friends. Where is that same space for women?! Look, I understand hobby rooms and places in the house dedicated to certain activities (RD wants an area in our condo so that he can set up an easel and paint, for example), but having a space in the house that’s so aggressively male – and only for males – just irks me I guess. And the fact that not having one can be a deal breaker to an otherwise perfect house? Come on.

Buyers believe what the banks tell them they can afford

I was constantly surprised that buyers would just take what the bank told them they can afford and that so many people spent to their maximum pre-approval. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’ve run your own numbers and can fit that mortgage payment (and all other associated housing costs) into your budget, but many of the buyers just said things like “the bank pre-approved us for $140k, so that’s our budget.” No. Please please please. If you’re thinking of buying a home, please run the numbers and consider all scenarios – what would happen if you (or your partner) lost your job? What happens if you have kids? Do you have an emergency fund? Are you saving enough for retirement? Did you leave room in your monthly budget for property tax, insurance, and strata fees? I’ll admit that perhaps my budgeting spreadsheet(s) are too detailed to be enjoyed by most people, but the minimum you should be doing is spending a few hours looking at your finances and seeing what you can actually afford, not what the bank says you can afford. Because the bank? They’re not looking out for your best interest. They’re looking to make as much money off you as possible.

Nobody had a 20% down payment

I think out of the entire two seasons I watched, only two buyers had a 20% down payment, and one was because he received an inheritance. As for the other buyers, some didn’t have down payments at all. But I was mostly surprised that many were going house hunting with such a small amount saved (even though they often had good salaries). It made me wonder if they even had any additional money set aside for an emergency fund or moving costs. Because if they say they’ve been able to save $4,000 for a down payment, that’s a small enough number that it makes me think that’s probably all of their savings, no?

Related: Why I don’t want to burn my mortgage

In some places, normal people with normal salaries can afford houses

The amount that RD and I paid for our condo was more than anyone paid for their house on the show in the 2 seasons I watched. It made me cry a little bit inside when one guy (who had no down payment, btw) signed the papers on a 3-bedroom house where his mortgage would be less than $500/month. Or another episode where a guy bought a 2,200 sq.ft. house for $200k. That same house would have easily cost $3 million if it were located in Vancouver!

I definitely got super envious at the housing prices – I’d love a house for $100k, thanks – but then I think about living in Rural Wherever and I’m okay with spending what we did to live in a big city. :) Lifestyle and demand and all that stuff mean that in big cities like Vancouver or Toronto or New York, normal people with normal salaries will never be able to afford houses.

Some people don’t have Realtors

Okay this one really did shock me. I didn’t realize people went house hunting on their own without representation. I’m not saying that in a snarky way, I really was surprised. I know that sometimes Realtors get a bad reputation, but not to have one at all to give you advice and protecting your best interests … I dunno, it feels like going to court without a lawyer.

In this one episode, a woman was looking to buy a house and had searching on her own for MONTHS without any luck. She was getting into multiple offer situations, often got outbid, and was extremely frustrated. Yet she kept commenting that there was no way a Realtor could do a better job than what she was already doing. Her friend reluctantly convinced her to use a Realtor, and she ended up finding her dream home with them. When you’re buying real estate, using a Realtor is free (you only have to pay commissions when you sell using a Realtor). I’ve only had very positive experiences using a Realtor, and can’t imagine ever navigating the property market without one. But of course that’s my own experience and my own opinion!

(Curious – has anyone been successful in not using a realtor to buy?)

Buying a home with someone is a huge commitment

In some ways, buying a home with someone is more of a commitment than marriage, so you better be sure that person is the right one for you! There was one episode where a couple had been dating for 7 years, but when she realized that a mortgage meant they’d be committed for the next 30 years? She freaked out and they broke up. There was another episode where the woman wanted a huge house to fill it up with future children, and the guy looked so frightened and the Realtor looked like she wanted to die it was so awkward.

I personally think it’s important to figure out what you both want (now and in the future) before you start your home search. Think about where you want to live, if you want kids, if you plan on getting married – all of the big life decisions don’t have to be made immediately, but at least openly discussing them before committing to a home could potentially save a lot of arguing, and also money. From a financial perspective, I think it’s also important how you plan on combining financing, splitting mortgage and household payments, as well as who actually owns the house (or how it’ll be split). It was interesting to see the creative solutions the home buyers on the show came up with in terms of ownership rights, and payment to the mortgage, which goes to show that there’s not one right way of doing things.

Related: Combining our finances

Anyway part of me is really glad that we don’t have cable, otherwise I’d have access to all those other home buying/house flipping shows that I’m obsessed with. :) What are some of the things you’ve learned from watching shows like this?!

5 Tips on Finding a Career That’s More Than Just a Job

Note: this post is sponsored by Capital One Canada, but the views and opinions are my own.

One of the most interesting things I’ve done as a financial blogger was host a Facebook Live Q&A panel earlier this month with Capital One Canada at the Enactus National Exposition in Vancouver. The theme of the panel was Finding a Career That’s More Than Just a Job, which really resonates with me – and I think a lot of people that read this blog too. :)

If you’re not familiar with Enactus, it is a global organization that fosters entrepreneurship among post-secondary students. Since 2012, Capital One Canada sponsors an annual regional and national competition where student teams identify, develop and deliver financial literacy projects aimed at improving and shaping their local social and economic landscape. It was a pretty inspiring few days to say the least!

A career that you love

The main reason why I was drawn to this Capital One event was because of its core message:  Finding a career that’s more than just a job is so important to your personal happiness. For me, it’s rewarding to know that I’m in a career that allows me to reach my full potential.

Related: Are you passionate about your career?

I write a lot about career progression here on the blog, and the initiative it takes to really get ahead, find a career path, and secure an employer that’s worth committing to. In the panel interview, Senior Director of Partnerships at Capital One Jay Acharya said it best when he compared job interviews to dating. That’s how I’ve always looked at it as well! The exchange needs to be a two-way street with an equal performance on both sides – they need to love you, but you need to love them too. :)

Related: What do you look for in a job?

It’s important to establish what you want out of your career. Personally, it took me a long time to figure out what would make me happy. But now, I’m confident in who I am and what I’m looking for. I’m not afraid to walk away from a job offer if I don’t feel like I would fit in with the company culture, or if I don’t think it’s a company I believe in.

That’s exactly the point Hannah Stegen made in our discussion (she’s a former Enactus student and recently hired Capital One associate). She spoke about how Capital One worked with her to find the position that was best suited to her skillset and to what she wanted to do. I think that speaks a lot to the company and their willingness to find and retain the best talent. And after a few years of getting to know the team over at Capital One (they’re a platinum sponsor of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference too), I can honestly say that I think it’d be an amazing place to work.

One of the things that got me most excited was Capital One Canada’s flexible workplace and its comprehensive health benefits:

  • Benefits – Capital One offers a comprehensive benefits packages that cover standard health and dental, including fitness/gym memberships, additional time off for volunteering, and financial assistance.
  • Flexibility – the company acknowledges employees have lives outside of work, which means striking a work-life balance is crucial. That’s why Capital One allows employees to work remotely (at home or a coffee shop).

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

I really want to share with you the short Facebook Live video (since I know most of you didn’t get a chance to watch it!) that includes 5 job searching tips:

Find A Career That's More Than Just A Job

We'll be live on Facebook with Krystal Yee from Give Me Back My Five Bucks to share tips for landing your next job. Have a question? Add it as a comment below and it could be answered live!

Posted by Capital One Canada on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Head of Talent Acquisition for Canada at Capital One, Victoria Reynolds, mentioned that they’re hiring for a bunch of different positions – especially in the digital and tech space – so if you’re interested in finding out more about jobs at Capital One, I’d encourage you to go to for more information.

As for me, it’s taken me 10 years to build my career up to where I want to be. I feel like I’m on a real path to success now. I like challenging myself on a daily basis, I enjoy my co-workers, I feel respected, and I’m proud of the work that my company is doing – and I hope that you feel the same way about what you’re doing in your career too. :)

Why I don’t want to burn my mortgage

When I bought my first home in 2011, I had a very Independent Woman attitude about it all, and wanted to pay down my mortgage as fast as possible. Because I was self-reliant, and didn’t need a man to become debt-free and reach all my goals! Right? Well. 28-year-old-Krystal had a lot to learn about financial priorities. I eventually realized that putting every extra penny towards my mortgage wasn’t making me happy, and it wasn’t getting me any closer to my number one financial goal of early retirement. So by the time I sold that home in 2015, the only extras I was putting towards my mortgage was keeping to an accelerated bi-weekly schedule.

Related: Why I’m reducing my mortgage payments

Since RD and I are taking possession of our home in a few weeks, we’ve been discussing how we plan to pay down our mortgage. Based on our budget I showed you earlier this month, we’ll definitely be going with an accelerated bi-weekly payment plan, but aside from that? We have vague goals of putting down some sort of lump sum payment every year. Accelerated payments and small lump sums will be enough for us to reach our goal of eliminating our mortgage before we retire. But as a PF blogger, I just had to run the numbers to see how long it would take us to “burn” our mortgage, Sean Cooper style. :)

We’ve calculated that our joint expenses will be $3,600/month – which includes our base mortgage payment, strata, and property taxes, along with our fixed bills, groceries, household expenses, and a monthly buffer of $365 set aside for household repairs and emergencies. If we decided to trim down those expenses a little bit and put the rest of our income towards the mortgage (which means we’d live on a very strict budget), we could eliminate our mortgage in less than 5 years.

So yeah, it would be pretty damn cool to be mortgage-free before I’m 40 (especially in the Vancouver area!), but the lifestyle and sacrifice required to achieve that goal is not appealing. And at this point in our lives, it’s just not going to happen. 5 years is a really long time! Maybe our mindset will change in the future, but here’s why it’s not going to happen right now:

We have other (more important) financial goals

Yes, paying down the mortgage is a big financial priority, but early retirement and traveling every year is higher up on that list. It always has been.

Traveling multiple times a year is something we both agree is really important to us, and we want to do for as long as we are physically able to travel. It’s one thing to potentially lose our big trip each year (that seems manageable), but not be able to afford flights to visit our families, go to Tofino, or plan weekend getaways to the Sunshine Coast or Squamish? That sounds horrible. Living that kind of life for the next 5 years (which happen to be prime adventure travel/hiking years) to pay off our mortgage sooner? No thanks.

Related: When renting is better than home ownership

As for early retirement, saving for that goal has always been my top financial priority. And now that RD has figured out when he can retire from the government, it means my retirement age will be 54. :) Losing 5 key years of retirement savings stresses me out because if I keep saving at the rate that I’m saving right now, I will reach my goal easily.

No interest in working harder

Work more than my 9-5 job, and the small amount of freelance work I do on the side? Sorry, again, not interested. Maybe that’s a horrible attitude to have, but this is the reason why we chose to take on a small mortgage – so that we will never feel like we need to work harder than we already are, just to keep a roof over our heads.

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really important to work hard to achieve your goals. I worked three jobs to pay down my debt, and continued to hustle in order to save for my first down payment – often working 70-75 hours/week. But that lifestyle isn’t sustainable, and I burned out after 18 months. I’m glad I worked hard to put myself in the financial situation I am now, but I made a promise to myself after I moved back from Germany that I was never going back to working crazy hours again – even if it meant taking a pay cut. Living a balanced lifestyle is just so much more important to me now.

I want a little YOLO attitude in my life

We love our lifestyle right now. We’re frugal and we often say no to things when they come up, but we also don’t want to miss out on what we feel is important. I love being able to say ‘yes’ to a girls weekend in Seattle or Vegas, treating my sister to a spa day for her birthday, and buying that sorta pricey climbing gym membership with zero regrets. I want to continue being able to do all of these things without stressing or feeling guilty that I should be putting those dollars towards the mortgage instead.

You really do only live once, and the whole point of buying the condo that we bought was because we could afford to continue living exactly how we’re living now. I’ve worked so hard for the past 10 years to become as financially stable as I am right now, and the idea of having to sacrifice for 5 more years sounds exhausting. And, honestly, it seems joyless.

Our mortgage will be paid off before we retire

We both agree that we don’t want a mortgage in retirement, and that goal is easily attainable by making accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, and small lump sum payments every year. Interest rates may change in the future, but for the next 5 years, we’re looking at a 2.59% 2.54% rate. And I know we can get a better return for our money by investing it instead. Since we already have a sizeable down payment, the thought of putting more of our net worth into real estate isn’t something we are super comfortable with.

Related: My biggest home buying regret – not fully considering the future

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is our thinking right now, but it doesn’t mean we won’t change our minds in the future. Maybe we’ll come up with a happy middle ground where we are paying extra towards our mortgage to eliminate it in 10 or 12 years instead of aggressively going for 5 years. Or maybe we’ll just be happy with the 18 year plan that we have going for us.

Are you planning on aggressively paying down your mortgage?

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