She started to look slightly askance – and only then did I realise what it looked like, pulled myself up and said, “oops, no sorry, don’t worry, it’s not my phone number!”
I always travel with my laptop, and am often moving from location to location throughout the working day, so I do a lot of work in wireless-enabled coffee shops. This particular time I’d sat at the empty space on a table with a woman and her friend.
They were talking reasonably loudly and I couldn’t help but hear her say “so I really want the house; I don’t know if I can afford it with my other outgoings, but it’s just so gorgeous”. Her friend countered with “oh then you have to get it, just do it and then worry about how you’ll work it all out later.”
This went on in a vicious circle of conviction that buying the house was an absolute must regardless of any practicalities. The friend was like a devil on the shoulder, tempting and spurning sensible home economics, yet the buyer herself did keep going back to, “I am worried though, I’ve some other debts to pay, and it would really put a stress on my finances – I just don’t know how to work it all out.”
Having sat through 20 minutes of this, they got up to leave, at which point I couldn’t help myself – I wrote “www.moneysavingexpert.com/budgeting” on a scrap of paper and leant across to pass it to her. At first she shirked but then I speedily (no suprise) said “I’m sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing some of your conversation, and you really do need to go and do the sums before you do anything else; you wouldn’t want to lose your home after you got it because you couldn’t pay the bills. This should help you do it clinically, then speak to someone about the actual cost of the mortgage, and if you can afford it you’ll breathe easy.”
Half way through that I think I saw a sign of recognition in her eyes (which makes things a little easier). Normally I’m shy with such things, and never work up the courage, but given the scale of the potential personal financial disaster, I just couldn’t resist giving a minor echo of caution.