Freelancers and business owners face a different set of challenges around finances than those employed at a more traditional 9–5. Often, entrepreneurs choose to sink most of their profits into growing the business — leaving little left over for big purchases like buying a home.
That’s the money moment business owner Marie Poulin found herself in when she and her partner wanted to buy a home… but their savings were tied up in bootstrapping their businesses.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m Marie Poulin; 33 years old, and recently moved from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast of BC. I’m an experience designer and digital strategist, and I also co-founded a consultancy and software product with my partner that helps people deliver online courses.
What was your money moment?
We both work from home and run the same business, and we found ourselves asking… Why are we bootstrapping our company from one of the most expensive cities in Canada?
We love Vancouver, but it’s a very expensive city, and buying property in Vancouver is difficult, or near-impossible (unless you have a million dollars to play with). Even then, you’re buying a tiny 1 or 2 bedroom condo on the outskirts of the city.
We wanted to get a foot in the real estate market, but it was feeling like an unrealistic pipe dream, and it meant that we wouldn’t be able to take some of the risks that we’d been taking (like my partner devoting time to work on our software instead of taking on clients).
What was your money mindset before this?
We were stressed and feeling some scarcity around our money situation. We’d been bootstrapping for some time, using my partner’s business savings and my business income to fuel our software development and we had a small nest egg that we had considered our “business runway.” If we were going to buy property, we would have to say goodbye to that runway!
We realized we were building runway for either a home, or our business, but not both.
What had to change?
We discussed the possibilities at length and we identified two options:
- Pack up all of our belongings, sell what’s not essential, and put the rest in storage. We could work from somewhere in Asia or South America for 6 months, cutting our expenses in half, so we could save a bigger down payment.
- Buy something smaller in a neighbouring city.
We spoke with a mortgage broker and realized that we were in better shape than we thought in terms of buying property. Having this conversation and really digging into our finances forced us to look at every single financial asset we both had laid out on paper.
Knowing what we had to work with, plan number 2 started to become the more logical option. We realized that a mortgage would be the same as the rent we had been paying!
Since we both work from home, and don’t need to see clients face to face, we knew that we could be more flexible with where we would purchase a home.
So we crunched the numbers and decided to go all-in, using our “business runway” for a down payment.
We decided to look at property on the Sunshine Coast of BC; a very different vibe and slower lifestyle. Having the big conversations about what we wanted from our money allowed us to get clear on our goals and vision for the future. We both value freedom and the ability to choose how we spend our time. We realized that having a property asset felt like it would support that need for freedom, and not hinder it.
Of course buying a house is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make in a life-time, so it was intense; there was a rollercoaster of excitement and terror; are we making the right decision?
We spent a few days exploring the coast with a real estate agent, and there was one house that made us both say, YES, this one. This is it.
Finding the house we wanted to live in made the decision so much easier. Suddenly we could picture our lives in this new house, new neighbourhood, and new community. It felt like a grand adventure! Two days later we had our offer in, and it was accepted.
A week into getting our paperwork filed we learned of some major mortgage changes, and our application would be rejected unless we could come up with an additional $20,000. Now, to be fair, we had that money available to us in our business bank account, but that was our buffer for furniture and unexpected house expenses. We made the decision to go all-in, and it was terrifying. That month felt like a roller-coaster of highs and lows; extreme excitement followed by waves of terror that our safety would be mostly non-existent.
Of course my partner and I have different money stories and attitudes around money, so going through this experience really forced us to come together and align on all our decision making, both big and small.
We moved in less than 6 weeks after we’d put in our offer, so it was a complete whirlwind.
How has your money mindset changed?
Since moving in, there’s a huge sense of ease that I never had when I was renting. There’s such a different mindset that comes along with house-ownership, that even though you have a mortgage, you are building equity. I feel a million times lighter since moving in.
We’re now much more responsible about our budgeting, as we know exactly how much is in all of our accounts, and our finances really are intertwined now. We don’t buy things just because we want them; we carefully consider where they fall into the priority list, so all of our house and financial decisions are much more intentional and carefully considered.
This is certainly a transitional time as we get into new routines and save up our “runway” again, but I trust in our collective ability to generate revenue. This process has really helped us come together to understand how each of our thinking and feeling around money need to be acknowledged and worked with.
What has been your biggest aha moment from this experience?
One of my biggest a-has in all of this was realizing how valuable it is to see all of your combined finances in one place. I also wish that I’d spoken with a mortgage broker (or even financial planner) years before we were “ready” to buy a house. There were lots of ways we both could have optimized our finances in anticipation of such a big financial change that we didn’t even realize.
Another realization we had was just how different our threshold for comfort around savings and buffer had been. They were conversations we’d only really had casually, and hadn’t ever really dug into the numbers and put all our cards on the table.
Overall, it’s been an incredible rewarding experience, and I look forward to building up a more “liquid” nest egg soon!
What would you most like people to know about money?
Marie Poulin + Benjamin Borowski run Oki Doki, a digital consultancy that provides digital experience and service design for small business owners who are looking to scale their impact.
Have you had a “Money Moment” that taught you something about money, yourself, or your money mindset? I’d love to help you build on that money moment! I always say that you can’t just “work on your finances” once and be done…it’s an ongoing process. So come over to my website and get access to an entire library of free resources!