By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Making a big-ticket buy will make anyone nervous. From a house to a car, one question is usually top of mind: can I afford it?

Three families told WCCO what they hoped to buy, and a financial adviser crunched the numbers.

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WCCO shares the answers we should all have before making a pricey purchase.

From a family growing out of their suburban home, to a new one hoping to escape the winter for a week and a woman who needs a new way to get around.

They all want to know if buying is the right move to make.

The Hettwers have lived in their house in Coon Rapids for nearly a decade. With three growing kids, their 1,800 square foot home is feeling smaller.

“I don’t want to be house poor, that’s our biggest thing,” Jill Hettwer said. “My biggest thing is just space.”

Jill and Jeremy Hettwer are looking to upgrade.

“I think we’d like to stay within the $280,000 to $310,000 price range,” Jill said.

With no credit card debt and a down payment from what they make on the sale of this home, they answer a few more financial questions before the final answer.

“We’d probably put $30,000 down,” Jill said.

WCCO asked: Can they afford it?

Prosperwell LPL Financial Advisor, Nicole Middendorf, did her homework to come up with her decision.

“No, they can’t afford it. I wish I could say, ‘Yes, you can go buy the house,’ but no,” Middendorf said. “The bottom line number is you want a 20 percent minimum down payment on a home.”

If you can’t come up with that 20 percent, you have to pay what’s called private mortgage insurance.  It means the lender will still get paid if you can’t cover your payment.

On a $300,000 home, it means the Hettwers would be paying $150 a month more.

While they may have done away with their credit cards to stay out of debt, Middendorf believes they need to get at least one.

Putting even a small purchase on each month and paying it off will increase the couple’s credit score.

“The higher credit score you have ,the lower the interest rate that you’re going to pay, which means the lower the payment,” Middendorf said.

Middendorf suggests the Hettwer’s wait it out for a year or two to make the most of their money.

Laura Cunningham was in search of a new car for her family of four after she lost her old one to a garage fire.  A brand new Honda Odyssey caught her eye.

“I guess about $30,000 was what we were estimating to spend,” Cunningham said.

They settled on putting $2,000 down and signing up for a 1.9 percent financing package.

“We extended it to 66 months to keep it about $600 a month,” Cunningham said.

WCCO asked: Can they afford it?

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“Yes, but I hesitate saying yes because it’s a brand new vehicle,” Middendorf said.

Our financial adviser thinks it’s always best to buy a vehicle a year or two old. That way, someone else has already taken the hit on the depreciation all new cars carry with them.

“Let someone else take the main depreciation on things,” Middendorf said.

Mara and Schwager put off a tropical honeymoon after their wedding last fall.

“Shortly before February rolled around we found out we had other priorities coming,” Chad Schwager said as he looked down at 6-week-old, Stella.

This winter, they’re hoping Stella will stay with grandparents while they get away.

“We kind of want to keep it at that $4,000 budget,” Chad said.

They will have $9,000 in savings by then but also some debt they’re wondering about.

“On one credit card we have $3,000,” Chad said. ” The other credit card has about $1,000 on it.”

That card has a 19 percent interest rate.

“Can we afford it?” Chad asked.

“In my opinion, no. You really need to look at what’s a want and what’s a need,” Middendorf said.

Middendorf says the Schwagers would be better off paying all of their credit cards before taking that trip.

“When you have credit cards that you’re paying 19 percent interest, you cannot get ahead,” she said.

Middendorf said building up savings of at least six months of income should be top priority.

“I can’t stress it enough you’ve got to have no credit card debt, maxing out your Roth IRA’s and maxing out your 401K plans before you do all of these extra things in life,” Middendorf said.

Middendorf would likely give the Schwagers the green light next winter.

“In general most people are just living beyond their means,” Middendorf said.

Bottom Line?

Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you can afford it.

Our money expert knows they are hard words to hear. Not nearly as fun as say a new house, car or honeymoon.

Middendorf told WCCO’s Liz Collin that most financial advisors offer a free meeting to perspective clients.

She says it’s always better to run a big purchase by a professional first before buying.

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For more on how you to decide if you can afford a purchase, visit About

Liz Collin