My Decision Making Process Might Be Holding Me Back

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decision making

I wrote the other day on Debt Roundup about how I am a defensive pessimist.  You might not know what that means, but it is basically someone who thinks of all negative possible outcomes and plans how to deal with them.  It is not true pessimism.  I don’t just acknowledge a bad outcome and then do nothing about it. I plan accordingly and then make the most informed decision that I can.  The funny thing is that I have found that many men are defensive pessimists and many women are optimists.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; I just find it funny.  There are many guys within my family and friends who are the same as me.  We take a lot of time to make decisions. (Editor’s note…Grayson you’re not alone in this as I would likely call myself one as well. 🙂 )

Unfortunately, I am finding that there are times when my defensive pessimism is causing me issues with actually making a decision.  While looking over all scenarios and doing research is not a bad thing, it can really hinder you when you need to make a decision quickly.  I am dealing with this right now as my wife and I search for a new home to buy.

Quick Decision Making is Not My Forte

I used to make quick decisions a lot when I was spending beyond my means. Impulse purchases were trouble for me.  My mind would tell me to go for it as I could “afford” it, yet my gut would tell me to stop and think. I am the complete opposite now.  My gut will tell me to go for it, yet my mind will tell me to stop and think.

There are times when your gut isn’t right and for me that can be often! I have always been a defensive pessimist who thoroughly planned out decisions.  If the decision had any complexity, it just made it worse for me.  I would have a back and forth battle in my mind before I could make a decision. This has only been magnified since I got out of credit card debt. Now, I can come up with a decision, yet I will second guess myself constantly. It really does hinder me, yet I do finally make decisions.

Hot Real Estate Means Quick Decisions

The city we live in is on an upward swing with regards to Real Estate. It is definitely a sellers market here.  This was great for us when we listed our home for sale, but it has been hell while we are trying to buy one.  We have to either get a home soon or will need to start renting until we can get one.  This means we will have to move twice.  That is not something that I look forward to.

We are looking for a home in a hot part of our city. Many families are moving there because the schools are great, the commute is good, and the neighborhood is kid friendly.  This is where we want to raise our son and grow our family.  The problem is homes are only staying on the market for a few days at best.  They are literally flying off the shelves. You can see a new home listed on the market and by that afternoon, they have already had 10 showings.  We were at a home that just listed and we were in there with four other couples.  It was crazy!

My wife is a very go with the flow type of person. I love that about her.  She can make a decision quickly and generally be happy with it.  I am not that type of person.  I need to have a plan for every possible scenario that can happen.  I can’t make a quick decision and that is really putting us at a disadvantage as we look for a home.  I need time to do my research, but when I finish, the home is already under contract.  We have figured out a solution, but it is costly.

My Decision Making Solution is Costing Us

For those who have not purchased a home in some time, there is something called a due diligence fee.  This fee is given to the sellers as a way to give you time to get your inspection, appraisal, and loan done.  You can negotiate the amount of time, but if you drop out during that time, the seller keeps your fee.  If you go through the entire process and buy the house, then that amount is just subtracted from your overall loan.

We have put in one offer so far on a house and we got it.  We had to make a quick decision as we were in a bidding war.  I liked the house, but didn’t really have time to research it much.  It was older, so that had me a little concerned.  We dropped $250 for the due diligence and I started my research. It only took me three days before I realized the home would be more trouble than it was worth.  There were just too many things wrong with it or potentially wrong with it.  Since it was much older, there was a very high probability there were hazardous chemicals in the construction material. That didn’t sit well with me.

After looking at the costs alone just to get it tested and the amount of work we wanted to do, I decided that we needed to get out of the contract.  That cost us $250! Unfortunately, for a person like myself, I have to use the due diligence period in order to due the research that I would normally do before we even put in an offer.  There is just no time to wait.  Since we have to pony up some dough in order to get this period, it just irritates me more.  In the grand scheme of things, I think the small fee is worth it in order to get a home that we really want.  I just don’t like paying more money than I have to.  My decision making process is really holding us back in this regard and it could end up being costly.


How do you handle decisions?  Are you like me where you have to research as many outcomes as you can?  If you can live with the worst outcome, then you will go for it?


Photo courtesy of: Sasquatch I

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Grayson is the owner of Debt Roundup and Empowered Shopper. He also co-owns Sprout Wealth and Eyes on the Dollar. After going to battle and winning against consumer debt, he decided it was time to learn how to use credit wisely and grow his wealth. He discusses all things personal finance and is not afraid of being controversial. He also is a freelance writer and blog manager.

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  • Catherine says:

    Though I have never heard that term I am 100% like you Grayson. Actually maybe I’m a hybrid in bad situations Im pretty optimistic but in general I beat every small and big decision like a dead horse…I know it holds me back sometimes. Sometimes it’s as small as missing out on a sale priced item because I couldn’t decide but I also dread trying to find a new home when the times comes. At least you can recognize this and I know I rely on my husband to talk decisions through a lot!

  • I make some decisions quickly – sometimes very quickly – and others I agonize over. We went back to our house for two additional showings before making an offer. I was even turned off by other properties that were getting offers too quickly! Another good example is my blog theme/design that I’ve agonized over for well over a year now. It might have benefited me to just make a switch 6+ months ago as I’m probably hurting myself at this point by waiting for the ‘perfect’ theme and the ‘perfect’ design.

  • My wife is a lot like this with other areas. For instance, before we painted our kitchen the color it is now, she was trying paint samples for 2 years. She went back and forth to the paint store that they gave her the swatch that has all of the color options in it.

    I have a hard time with this since I get motivated to do house projects and if I don’t strike while the iron is hot, I tend to put it off. We’ve compromised the next time by agreeing to a paint color and then I just buy the paint and paint the room. Everything turned out great and she loves the color. It’s helped her to realize that when it comes to smaller things in life, like the paint color, you don’t need to agonize over it for a long time.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Picking paint colors is no problem for me. I am probably a selective defensive pessimist, but anything that involves sums of cash causes me to go into crazy decision making time.

  • I always remind myself that many decisions can be changed, should the need be. If you bought a house and really hated it, you could always sell. Sometimes you just have to jump. 🙂

  • I take my time on many decisions and generally I don’t think that’s a bad thing. However, I have found myself on occasion taking too long, jumping back and forth between different scenarios. At some point, you just have to take all the possible information and move forward.

  • My wife and I are complete polar opposites when it comes to decision making. I will think and deliberate about a decision forever, whereas she is a “let’s GO FOR IT” kind of woman. I can’t count how many times she sees a great deal, wants to go for it, but I want to wait and think about it. By the time we go back, it’s gone, or the sale is over. On the other hand, in my defense, many times my “let’s wait” philosophy results in us determining that the purchase wasn’t worth it. The debate goes on in our house…..

  • Kim says:

    I think you need to view the due diligence fee as you would insurance. No one like to pay for it, but if it saves your a$$ then it’s worth it. I would always have some sort of an out or something contingent on inspection. I’d hate to rent, but if it means finding a place that’s right, then that’s what you do. Just unpack a few plates and clothes and leave all the rest boxed up.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      That is a great way to think of it Kim and that is really what I view it as. I don’t want to have to continue paying it, but if I can drop out of the contract at any time during it, then it is a good buy.

  • As I mentioned in the comments section of your post about being a defensive pessimist…I am in the same circumstance and can definitely relate. I waited too long during the bidding process and another buyer jumped in. Who knew the market was getting hot again…apparently not me! I hate bidding wars. In any case, I think you did the right thing, especially with an older house. $250 is a drop in the bucket when you think about the possible maintenance and repair costs that you may encounter if the house has issues.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I really hate bidding wars as well. You have no idea what the other buyers are thinking. It is not like an auction where you can make an informed decision based on the factors around you. With real estate, you just have to do the best you can.

  • I shared on your blog on Monday that my hubby was just like you and I laughed when I read this post because you sound exactly like my hubby again. I am definitely more of an “intuitive” or gut decision maker and my hubby definitely likes to take this slow and methodical. We actually were in a similar situation where we knew we wanted to buy a home in a neighborhood that had very quick sales, so we planned for months ahead of time (well my hubby did) so that we were mentally prepared for the game. That way once we started the home shopping process, we were both ready to act and move as quickly as the markets.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I am glad that I have my wife to help me with the gut check decisions. She is very much go with the gut type of person. If I didn’t have her, nothing would ever be decided!

  • I sometimes get anxiety over not getting the best possible price or deal which means I’ll make no decision at all, and then I’ll miss out on something all together.

  • E.M. says:

    You are very much not alone. I’m the same way and would probably be using the same methods to do research. I can’t jump in blindly with anything. I was doing all the research while trying to decide on an apartment, and it was killing my boyfriend that I couldn’t make up my mind. It was frustrating me as well, but I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. It’s a lot of pressure when you’re trying to determine where your family will be happiest. Thankfully we fell in love with one and had to take it the same day as they were running out. It’s not perfect, and I had some anxiety about it, but we are happy.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      It is frustrating my wife and myself. I know it is really frustrating my Realtor. It happens, but I need to go through my process to make a decision and that is really how it is right now.

  • I see no problem in spending $250 for due diligence. I think it’s well worth it when you’re buying a home. I did a lot of that when I was buying. My realtor was annoyed by it and would say, you’re spending too much money on due diligence. That comment really annoyed me because she was basically not concerned about getting me the best house she just wanted to make the sale.

  • I swear you wrote this post about me. I’m exactly the same way. “It is not true pessimism.” No, it’s not, it’s planning! and I totally “get it”. Right now we’re trying to decide if we want to buy a home in the suburbs and sell our current condo in the city. It’s a hard decision, but what’s making it harder is my over analysis of everything. I have to check every little detail about the towns we’re considering from big important things like the school districts’ rankings and the train schedule to smaller and less important things like the local restaurants and the cable providers. Once everything is sorted out, I’ve taken so long, the house is already off the market.

  • As I commented in your post, I consider myself to be an optimist but since planning is a part of my daily life, I’m not really a go with the flow kind or person but need to have a plan. Buying a home is a significant investment so it isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Of course, given that it’s a seller’s market where you live that can make it a bit difficult since waiting too long can come at a price too. I can’t remember if I told you this already but when our dream house when on the market we put our home on the market. We dropped out once the bidding went above what we were willing to pay but our home sold. 🙂 The owners aren’t moving in until this summer so we’re renting from them now and really ramping up our house hunting since summer is almost here. Good luck on your search!

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Planning is probably too much of my daily life. I love to have a plan that I can follow. This buying process is just making me a little crazy. I don’t like to be rushed, but I have to be in order to get a home.

  • My decision-making process is mind-boggling detailed and slow, so I totally empathize with what you’re going through. The pressure is amplified on big-ticket purchases or something that requires some level of commitment. While I think it’s important to make informed decisions, I find it frustrating how long it takes me to come to a decision and STILL second-guess it after it’s made. So annoying! Good luck with your house search — sounds stressful!

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Glad to hear that I am not alone Kendal! The big purchase is really what kicks me in the butt. I am having a hard time doing anything when it comes to pulling the trigger on a home.

  • This reminds me of a couple months ago when my car died and I had to buy a car fairly quickly. I would have liked to have spent more time researching cars and waiting for “the best” deal, but not having a car in LA, and having friends cart me around to test drive and see these cars would have been a major hassle. Fortunately I think I did get a great deal, and did it quickly, but it could have potentially turned out bad since I acted so quick.

  • Prudence Debtfree says:

    I didn’t realize that this “slow-decision-maker-husband” and “quick-decision-maker-wife” thing was common. So much of what you say sounds familiar. It’s happened too often that my husband will see something we need at Costco, go home to think about it for a week or so, and then return to Costco to buy – only to find that the item has sold out. That used to drive me crazy! (I’ve learned to accept it by this point.) I think you’re doing the right thing with your house-shopping strategy. $250 is an annoying amount, but considering the purchase you are making, it’s well worth it. All the best in finding the right house : )

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I didn’t either until I started talking with other people about it. I have done that before. I waited too long to make a decision and the product was either gone or higher priced. It can hurt to wait.

  • I don’t know that I’d say I have a decision making process that is defined in any way. I make decisions quite quickly, and I try to act on them quite quickly (otherwise my excitement dies out and I don’t have the motivation to do it anymore!). Luckily, $250 isn’t all too much money.

  • I can often be pessimistic, but have grown to be more optimistic. I either agonize over making a decision, or am impulsive. I’m not very balanced I guess ;(

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I would love to be optimistic, but I am just not wired that way. I used to be incredibly impulsive, but have done a complete 180. I need to be right in the middle!

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