Friday, October 09, 2009

The House Brau Vow

I was enjoying a night out with the lovely spouse, and we were talking about buying a house.

Now is a good time, with prices down. Looking ahead 20 years, we'd like to retire from mandatory work (we can never stop working at something, but it'll be nice to have a choice). With a house that's paid off, we'd be o.k. with a meager retirement income.

But where would we get a down payment?

I looked at my beer.

Very little in life is as much fun as a night out with the wife and, often, with friends. Humans are social critters, and an evening in a pub is better than anything you see on T.V. But the price adds up:
  • 3 beers each, for two people, plus something to eat can come to $50 easy
  • $50 a night, 3 nights a week is $150 a week
  • 52 weeks a year brings us to $7800 a year
  • 5 years of this costs $39,000 ... and that, my friend, is a down payment plus!
This is a crude analysis, and with a little work could be made more precise; however, it is accurate enough to support the strategic decision: I must stop drinking alcohol until we cross the threshold of a house we own.

Now, I'm not an extremist. I'm willing to share the ownership of the house with a mortgageholder. I'm very willing to go out and have a good time, buying just enough to be fair to the bartender. I've got to leave good tips if I'm generating a small tab; it's just as much work to bring a glass of lemonade to a table as it is to bring a microbrew. And I'm happy to take a sip, not a drink, just to be friendly, in a toast, or to sample something my wife finds especially good.

But I'm not happy to be literally pissing away a house. Standing in the men's room of many a bar, I have sent into the sewer our retirement piece of land. However, it's never too late to change. To make such a change stick, I need to make a commitment: a vow.

According to Larry Goniff's wonderful Cartoon History of the Universe, the ancient Medes used to reconsider sober every promise they made drunk (...and to reconsider drunk every promise they made sober.) This rule has always seemed wise to me, drunk or sober. So I thought about this vow proposal for a couple of days; it still seemed a wise move because it risked no great harm, it might have the intended effect, and I could not see another way to get the job done.

Therefore, I made the vow: I will not have a drink of alcohol until we cross the threshold of a home we own

(... with the bank...).

A vow is a promise to make to yourself. You may include others, as in a marriage vow. But the first person you make any such promise to is yourself, so you'd better plan on keeping it! If you break a vow, you can't really talk your way out of it, or bribe yourself with flowers, or find another self to live with. So it's best to stay away from vows unless you like the challenge and will do what it takes to fulfill it.

As it happens, this vow is not particularly onerous. I've learned that bartenders are quite happy to bring you a lemonade or iced tea (see note on tips, above) although the fun ones are also happy to have a little fun with it. What the heck!

The money is adding up, slow like a turtle, but also steady. Another thing that is adding up is the time. Without the spur of alcohol, we go out a little bit less but we read a little bit more, work on projects more, and have time to look at prospect houses more. In particular, let me mention weekends: there was a time where I could drink all night and get up the next day feeling fresh, but that was a lot of brain cells ago. Today, one or two pitchers, and I'm ready to sleep. This is fine for late in the evening, but having lunch in a pub on a weekend meant that I'd nap til dinner, and therefore blow one of my most productive periods. Now I have those early weekend evenings back, and I like them!

A final, albeit mixed, benefit is this: when you're playing any sort of game that requires thinking to win, and everyone else is drinking, but you're not, you have a huge advantage. Use this superpower only for good!

One day, we will cross the threshold of the house we own (...with the bank...). And on the other side of the threshold will be a nice drink, or to be honest, a great many nice drinks. I won't be driving, using power tools, or winning at cards for at least a day after. But the vow will have worked and we will be happy.

1 comment:

rewinn said...


We now own our house.

I am now drinking beer in our own house!