When setting your housing budget, calculate how much you can afford — and then lower it. Even if you can technically scrape by on a higher budget, choosing only to consider places that are manageable will allow you more freedom and flexibility, as CNBC senior editor Ester Bloom learned.
Bloom and her husband chose to stick to a modest budget when buying their first home, and that enabled them to take chances at work that ended up making them happier.
"If we had opted for the mortgage we could, technically, have afforded back in 2011, both of us would have been stuck in both personal and professional ways, weighed down and held in place by the responsibility of owning an expensive home," she writes. "Neither of us would have been able to take the initial risks that led us to more fulfilling careers."