Buying a House is a Tough Decision! Reflecting on the Challenge of Missional Frugality

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My wife and I were under contract to buy a house before we moved to Billings, but unfortunately (and fortunately) we were unable to negotiate terms with the roof and the deal fell through.

As a result, we’ve been looking at a lot of houses.

I’m guessing we’ve looked at 30ish houses over the last three weeks.

Buying a house is a tough decision.

To be completely honest, part of the difficulty in the house buying process results from my wrestling about what is and is not an honorable thing to do with our resources.  I’m trying to figure out how my beliefs about missional frugality flow into our decision about buying a house.

3 Things I’ve Learned About House Shopping in Light of Missional Frugality

Background:  My wife and I have absolutely no debt.  We’ve got the cash to buy a house (and plan to buy a house for cash).  We determined how much we wanted to spend on a house based on the housing market we’re in to buy a nice, but not top end house – even if we could ‘afford’ something more expensive.  However, this has made the process of buying a home harder.  I think it would be easier to say, “how much can we afford”, and then buy a house as nice as we can afford.  However, we’re trying to be wise and buy as little house as we can afford.

1.  I think the bank is the worst place to go to get an idea of how much you should spend on a house, but I’m not sure where the best place to go is …

I just Googled “how little house can I afford”.  Granted, that’s awkward terminology, but the top four Google responses are articles with the title “How much home can you afford”.

I think that we ought to determine how much is enough and live with contentment within that predetermined range.  My wife and I are trying to apply the same principles to our house, but there are so many factors at play.

  • If we bought a more expensive home, we’d be able to host more people.
  • If we bought a more expensive home, it would likely go up more quickly in value.
  • If we bought a more expensive home, we’d probably be more comfortable.

However, while those are wise factors, they don’t seem to apply to us.  We don’t want to spend as much as we can afford.  We want to buy a home that is reflective of our personal preferences towards simplicity and a house that is also big enough for our three growing kids.  That’s a hard number to come up with.

2.  We want to buy a house that is big enough, but not too much. 

We’ve seen a lot of big and beautiful homes.  However, bigger is not always better.  We were really interested in a house at the top of our price range, but we realized how much more money we’d need to spend to furnish the place (because it’s bigger than what we currently have).  We’re also afraid that if we own a bigger house, we’d have more room for storage and then start to accumulate more.

Yet, we’re also trying to avoid the danger of getting a place that is too small that will lead to us feeling cramped. (That’s a very funny concept because, in our house in Papua New Guinea, people would always ask how many people lived in our 3 bedroom home. When we told them it was just the five of us, they’d say, “wow”.)  Hey, it is Montana, so I’m guessing we’ll be spending a lot of time indoors during the winter.

3.  We want to appropriately factor in our life values.

I’ve always wanted to live intentionally.  That means not just doing something because it’s popular or that’s what the status quo dictates.  As a result, we’re taking a lot of time to ask how important our time is. (That influences the decision regarding commuting).  Since I’ve got three young kids and I’m continuing my blogging as well as full-time ministry, my time is valuable.  By living closer to the church building, we may get a house that isn’t as nice, but in the end, will we like that more?  What’s more valuable: time or space?


Sometimes there are so many factors at play that decisions aren’t as black and white as they once seemed.  Practicing missional frugality when buying a home is a complicated matter with an unbelievable amount of things to consider.  In the end, we ask God to give us wisdom to make a decision that honors him.

Suggestions?  How do you determine when a purchase is God-honoring and when is it simply buying beyond what you need?


  1. JD says

    Greetings Craig,

    Obviously your question is for each of us to answer and not a blanket response. Before we left our previous state we made a list of what we wanted in our next house and the absolute top amount we would spend. Of course we aimed much lower than our maximum house budget but were open to look and speculate.

    We did have to compromise and did not get the privacy that we desired from neighbors. We both are most happy with our home and the price we paid. As in most decisions there were compromises but nothing we could not live with.

    We have a great layout, enough room, bathrooms, kitchen is a great layout and we have a wonderful view. An affordable home and we feel we did the best we were able within the confines of our budget.

  2. Chris says

    I see returned missions folks beating themselves up over these decisions a lot. Jn 10:10 – get what you need and be happy, it’s OK.

    • says

      Thanks for the feedback. I pray that my struggle is not simply something I’m struggling with as a returning missionary, but as a conscientious Christian. However, I am very thankful for all the things our mission experience taught us. In the end, I want to be a good steward with what we’ve been entrusted.
      Does John 10:10 teach that if I’ve got 3 million dollars for a home that God’s will for me to to buy that home?
      I’d love to get what we need, but that’s my exact struggle. How much do we need? How much is appropriate for our situation.
      I think more Christians ought to be struggling with these questions – not less.

  3. Scott says

    I’ve found that making a list of needs vs. wants shortens the list a little bit. Additionally, finding a home in a good school district also tends to shrink the playing field and associated home price ranges.

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