On a scale of one to ten, where does your anxiety about "ever owning a house ever in your life" chart? I would say might rumbles along at a pretty low two, and then occasionally – in those dark, quiet moments when I'm trying to sleep; or when I look at the bottom of my overdraft and think about taking my change jar to the counting machine at Morrisons; or when I have to interact with my landlord even at all – it spikes up to a hard 10 or 11, depending on my mood.
I think a lot of us are at this point with the housing market: absolutely resigned to the doom of it, the fact that – unless something absolutely gigantic happens to it over the next five years, which it won't – we are going to be broadly a generation without houses, and the best we can hope for is a reasonably fair rent agreement and a non-dickhead landlord and then, eventually, the sweet embrace of death. Maybe I'm projecting! Maybe I'm just projecting my anxiety onto you! Maybe I'm just sick of moving every single year of my life and not being able to put a nail in a wall without written email consent! I don't know!
Anyway, it doesn't have to be like this. The BBC, in its wisdom, has told us as such: if we, fickle millennials, just knuckle down and work hard, and watch our pennies and our pounds too, and bond forever to the first person of the opposite sex we ever meet in our lives, then we too could own a home in our twenties. I have read the article so you don't have to, and here's what it says:
LITERALLY GET MARRIED TO THE FIRST PERSON WHO EVER LETS YOU TOUCH THEIR GENITALS
I don't know if you even remember the name of the first person you ever had sexual contact with, but sadly if you have since moved on from them you are already behind in The Great Race To Buy A Three-Bed House An Hour's Drive From Manchester, because you need to couple up for this one. I am sorry about this.
What you should have done is: eased into a comfortable-like-an-old-jumper three-year relationship with them, either while you did your degree and they worked or while you worked and they did their degree, and then you should have both signed up to a Cineworld Unlimited Card ("It's the most affordable way for us both to have fun!" you said, right before you started watching four films a week) and started collecting Tesco Clubcard points and putting your collective salaries into the same shared savings account, and you should have looked into their dead, dead eyes, every night before you went to sleep, and thought, 'This is fine.' Thought, 'I never really wanted to experience life in any sort of diverse or interesting way anyway.' And then slept tight in the knowledge that you were 8 percent of the way towards a Help To Buy deposit and that you are never kissing anyone again, ever in your life.
THERE IS NO TIME BETWEEN EDUCATION AND WORK FOR YOU TO LIVE, SO JUST FORGET ABOUT THAT
The best day to start saving for your first house is the day you leave sixth form and immediately get a job. The second-best day is the day after you graduate from university and move in with the boyfriend or girlfriend you made there. There are no other times to start saving. If you had a week off after uni then, sadly, inflation has caught you off guard and you are now already £1,000 behind your goal. Buying a house is now no longer an option. Enjoy paying rent forever, you work-shy slob.
IF YOU DRINK COFFEE AGAIN I WILL SLAP IT OUT OF YOUR HANDS SO HELP ME FUCKING GOD
Is that a Pret latte in your hand? £1.99, is it? Do you know how many £1.99s a week that is? That's five, Darren. That's £10 that could go in the house fund. From now on it's two heaped teaspoons of Kenco, four of sugar and milk you pinched from the work fridge. If you boil more water in the kettle than you need I'll make you drink it from the fucking spout.
AND THAT GOES FOR LUNCH, YOU LITTLE SHIT
Ah, I'm sorry, but the only way you're ever going to afford a house is to stop going to Itsu and instead pack the exact same lunch every day for 24 months, and that lunch is "a corned beef sandwich that seems to exhale and sweat at the same time when you peel it from its lunchbox"; "one packet of Mini Cheddars that didn't do too well on the journey in today so is crushed down to dust"; and "a supermarket-brand Penguin equivalent". Visible scurvy is just a way of telling everyone your ISA is healthy.
NEVER SEE YOUR MATES EVER AGAIN AND IF YOU DO WANT TO SEE YOUR MATES PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THEY HATE YOU NOW
Seeing your mates is fun, isn't it? Enriching for the soul. The one thing that separates us from the animals. A way of forgetting for a few hours that you are you, trapped in this body of yours and this mind too, sacrificing yourself up briefly to the group mind-meld, a brief escape from your ever grey and trudging life. Well, that's all gone now, because you need to save the £40 a week you spend in the pub and put it into your savings. Alright, fine: you can see your mates once a month, planned weeks in advance, and when you order a Coke at the bar, decant scotch into it from a Sprite bottle you bought along with you, then opt out of the rounds system and bore everyone who is living a life by telling them how many Barretts waiting lists you're on. "You can all come and stay!" you tell them, "when I buy my house!" They are not going to come to your house, mate. You're a twat now and they hate you.
EAT SHIT, WEAR SHIT, LOOK LIKE SHIT
"Sorry, love, you can't wear Mac if we're ever going to buy a house. No. No, I know the tiny insignificant luxuries are what makes life worth living. Yes, I know the negligible cost differential works out at about £30 a year. But you're a Barry M girl now. We both are. Eat your oven chips."
LIVE AT HOME FOREVER
Your mum's going mad. Your mum's going absolutely insane. You're just in the way all the time: when she's hoovering, when she's doing Davina, when she's cooking, there you are, always always always, eating a single slice of peanut butter toast over the floor she just mopped, opening the fridge just when she's walking through the kitchen with a hot tray of potatoes, taking up an entire sofa on your own, watching Your Programmes on The Main TV. This will be temporary, you told her. You want it just as little as she does. It's only for a bit, you said. While I save.
It's now been 14 months and you keep leaving the heating on when you go out and you haven't contributed to the Big Shop even once, and you're going through what scientists call "The Teen's Reprise" – that curious phenomenon where, when ushered into the thick carpets and warm womb of home or the house where your parents live, you just immediately revert to adolescence and shout at them when they buy the wrong crisps, and use all the WiFi in the house at once, somehow, and trudge muddy footprints through the hallway and refuse to tidy them up, and scream, "FUCK OFF! FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF!" down the stairs at them. But still. It's only for a few months, isn't it! While you're saving!
NEVER GO ON HOLIDAY EVER AGAIN
Holidays are important, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you don't think a literal and psychic break from the grinding drudgery of real life is some sort of indulgent whimsy, then you're probably the exact sort of person who boasts about "never being off ill, not even one day, and I've been here seven years", or is an active poster on the MoneySavingExpert forums. Our bodies crave and need Vitamin D. Our minds desire change. One week all-expenses in Tenerife isn't going to drive you into debt for the rest of your life. Five days away from your desk and the night shifts afterwards isn't going to reverse you irreparably away from your goal. Still: kiss fuck off to ever leaving the country again, because baby, you've got 10 percent on a new build in Dronfield to save up for!
GIVE UP ON EVER DECORATING YOUR HOUSE WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN SQUIDGY GREY CARPETS, A 'LIVE LAUGH LOVE' SIGN AND THE EXACT SAME PINEWOOD ARGOS TV STAND
I don't know if this is a budget thing (if you put every spare pound you've ever earned into a 5 percent deposit, do you have anything left over for, like, even one tasteful lamp, or is your decorating budget reduced to exactly zero?), or it's just that the type of people who save up through their twenties to buy a house have the exact same basic taste in home interiors, but basically you're going to want a grey carpet, a Gumtree leather sofa, a £16.99 pine-effect TV stand and a small wire love heart that says "Live Laugh Love" in it, affixed with a ribbon to a spare white wall. This is what you have to look at now, forever. Welcome home.
WORK EVERY HOUR OF YOUR LIFE
That's what your mum and dad say, isn't it? They just worked hard, and then they bought a house. Lived in a different era and a different economic reality, where the fun things to do were less expensive, salaries were in line with inflation, house prices were realistic, mortgages were easier to get and jobs were too… but, fundamentally, all they did was worked hard and then bought a house. Why can't you do that, eh? Have you even for one minute considered working every single evening of the week as well as the daytime, too? Or is that too much for you, you snowflake millennial?
I for one can't imagine Bolton being a far-exotic realm too absurd to countenance moving to, but yeah, once you've bought your house – pale, anaemic bricks; a smooth grey-blue tarmac driveway; a cul-de-sac similarly full of 23-year-old couples in F+F jeans; green turf; stairs and a hallway; and four rooms and no soul – you are, sadly, condemned to wherever you live now, forever, because your house is everything and everything is your house. Can you imagine selling up and moving somewhere else? No. Of course not. Settle deep and quietly into your prison, and sit on the sofa you bought, and drink a cup of tea and watch Corrie. This is the rest of your life. Forever and ever and ever. And ever.
You did it! You bought a house in your twenties! Prepare to die here as well as live!
Work hard, eat dirt, fall in love with the first person you ever see naked, never have fun, but if you do have fun try to limit it to once a month, and – at most – for the net cost of £10, never move, never live and also buy somewhere in a satellite town a good 40-minute commute from the nearest major city, and nowhere south of Birmingham. Heh! It's great to be young!
More depressing shit: