A short time ago, that meant doing home repairs.
So he went to Lowe's and bought a gift card.
"We put $3,500 on a card which was pretty substantial for us."
The store had been running a special deal, adding 10 percent to the amount put on the plastic.
Only thing is, Houk says he never really used it.
"Eight months later, I lost my job. So we had spent some of the money, but there was still a good amount left on the card."
To make ends meet, Houk says he had to find cash.
"Our focus went from doing home improvement projects to paying basic bills."
Lowe's wouldn't refund the card, so he chose to sell it on Craig's List.
"We figured as long as we keep it local that it wouldn't be a big deal."
He got a call from a buyer, wanting the amount verified, before handing over his money.
"I did a three way call with Lowe's and him and typed in the numbers thinking there's no way he can see the numbers so it's not a big deal," said Houk.
The man never showed to make the exchange.
"After about 10 minutes you start getting a little uneasy. And then after 20 minutes you start saying, "Hey, where are you?"
Houk says Lowe's assured him his money would be fine.
"As long as we have the gift card then there's nothing they can do about it."
Be he quickly discovered his $3,000 had been wiped from the card.
While Houk knows he'll never get it back, he's now warning others about what he did wrong.
"I never thought that by typing in my number that somebody could actually record it and figure out what's on the back of the card," Houk admits.
His only hope is by being honest with others, perhaps someone else won't get cheated.
Lowe's say it's important for people to protect their cards as if they are cash.
The company will cooperate with police on an investigation once victims file a report.