A gated community involves certain advantages and disadvantages. The biggest benefit would be its increased security. When homeowners are away for long periods of time, or work a with irregular schedule, there's a little less worry in a gated community -- someone is always there to help ensure that the neighborhood is safe, and that only those who live there or who have legitimate business there can access it. This can ease your mind about the security of your home, and of your family members when you're away.
However this does come with a price, which is generally the increased cost to cover services such as common area landscaping and guard services. In fact, gated communities tend to be aimed at middle- to higher-income homeowners for this reason.
You can, however, make them affordable even if you're not in their income target ? but you need to be prepared to compromise. For example, if you want to purchase a home within a gated community, you'll need to factor in the additional monthly or annual expenses that the community charges. This may affect how much you can afford to take on as a mortgage. The compromise here might be to choose a smaller home than you could afford outside a gated community.
You may also opt to choose a different mortgage -- perhaps one that will be paid off over a longer period of time. This reduces your mortgage payments, allowing you to find money to pay those extra expenses, although it will increase the amount of mortgage interest you'll pay over the life of the mortgage. However, this may not be a concern if you can write off that interest on your taxes (don't forget to take advantage of this tax saving.)
Another compromise is to take a look at your budget, to see if there are discretionary expenses that you could cut in order to make a gated community more affordable for you and your family. Savings can hide in the most unexpected of places. For example, simply cutting out a daily latte can save you up to $640 a year, while choosing the library instead of a bookstore can save you even more. It's really up to you to choose your priorities within your budget -- but keeping your goal in mind will make any sacrifices much easier.
Whatever you do, try to avoid making yourself "house poor" -- this is where you have a great house, but no disposable income to actually enjoy the house or life in general. Be very realistic with yourself when it comes to working out how much of a mortgage you can afford, to ensure that meeting those mortgage payments doesn't become a source of ongoing stress for you.
A leading authority on solving - and avoiding - financial disasters, Stanley J. Kershman has been helping people get out of debt for more than 25 years. His down-to-earth book, "Put Your Debt on a Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Fitness" (Pepper Pike Press, 2006) is packed with powerful money management techniques and tips, and can be found at www.amazon.com, and at www.debtonadiet.com. He has been quoted in numerous media, including Reader's Digest, Dow Jones Newswire and Bloomberg News.