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Why patience is a virtue in the world of personal finance

By Len Penzo

For Len Penzo Dot Com

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 11:10 a.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 11:10 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: This post originally ran on the personal finance blog Len Penzo Dot Com. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Although I haven’t conducted a scientific study, I suspect that most people of modest means who are successful in managing their personal finances understand the importance of being patient.

Let’s face it: Most debt-free people aren’t impulsive shoppers, or insistent on instant gratification — if they want something but don’t have the cash, then they wait until they’ve saved enough.

An unexpected milestone

Patience has certainly played a ginormous role in allowing me to build a healthy nest egg — not to mention keeping my debt to a minimum. I was reminded of that again last week after the Honeybee and I bought beautiful new end- and coffee-tables to cap off our recent remodeling project: As we were loading the car with our old tables to give to a local charity, it dawned on me that we originally bought that furniture secondhand from friends of ours a decade earlier. Even more momentous was the fact that, 13 long years after buying our home, we were only now getting rid of the last of our hand-me-down furniture.

When we first bought our new home, we bought one new furniture set to go into it: a kitchen table with six chairs. Everything else was “donated” by our parents or bought secondhand. Not that we cared. In fact, we ignored the urge to fill every room with brand new furniture because: 1) we didn’t have the money, and 2) we weren’t willing to go into debt for five or six years to pay for it.

Why waiting was worth it

Looking back, the wait was definitely worth it. The Honeybee and I could have furnished our entire house when we first moved in 13 years ago (minus the kitchen set we bought) for about $12,000.

If we had been impatient — and took out a five-year loan for the full amount at an interest rate of 8 percent — we would have spent an additional $2,599 in interest. Even today, that’s enough money to pay for a room of furniture all by itself.

Over the years, our patience has allowed us to avoid a lot of costly interest payments. As a result, we’ve been able to afford some things much sooner than we otherwise would have — without being beholden to any lender.

Saving money takes time

Anyway, this little furniture episode got me thinking about how long the Honeybee and I have had to wait to buy certain things we’ve wanted since moving into our new home in 1997. So I put together a little list of all the “big ticket” items we’ve bought since then — either for the first time, or to replace our secondhand stuff. (The numbers in parentheses note how long we waited before we could finally afford to buy each item):

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