We Have Paid Off $154,500 Worth of Debt So Far

Oh my goodness, guys. I am beyond excited to say we have officially paid off $154,500 worth of debt since November 2016.

Right now we are chipping away at our mortgage. We are also toying with the idea of increasing our emergency fund. This is hard for me to do though, because every bit of extra income I like to throw at our mortgage!

Did you know that 8 out of 10 Americans live paycheck to paycheck? This used to be us! We thought it was perfectly normal for us to live this way, and by the grace of God we did not fall into some sort of major life calamity without the protection an emergency fund brings.

$70,000 of the $154,500 was paid off when we sold our previous home. It has been really hard at times to keep chipping away at our debt when I want to spend our money on something else. I’m really determined to not spend much on depreciating items right now though. I’ve done that for too much of my life.

Charts, graphs, and even paper chains have helped to keep me accountable. I’ve started an Instagram account for accountability purposes, too.

So how do you get started paying off a large amount of debt? I recommend putting one foot in front of the other, and taking things one day at a time. Look for motivation by following others who are on the same journey as yourself.

Paying off your debt is so worth it, y’all. Each dollar you pay back increases your net worth. Each dollar you pay back is changing your family tree. You can do it!

Mortgage Update (4/17/19): $138,500 To Go!

We now owe $138,500 on our home! We purchased our house for $255,000, and our starting loan balance was $242,250. After paying our mortgage down $40,000 once our previous residence sold, the remainder of the balance has been paid with a lot of sacrifice.

Seeing this number fall while our net worth grows is an amazing feeling!

This is our second additional principal payment of the month.

Paying additional principal towards your mortgage is so worth it! Our mortgage company provides a chart that explains just how much interest we could save by sending in just an additional $50 to $200 per month.

Take a look at these numbers, ladies! Amazing stuff happens when you add a zero or two to their suggestions. This chart is specific to our mortgage, but I bet yours would look the same, or even better!

We are currently passionate about paying down our mortgage because we know by doing so we are changing our family tree in a big way. Our house is small for our family size. I would love to upgrade one day, and our strategy might eventually change from paying down our mortgage to boosting our savings. But for now, we want to kill as much interest as we can.

We are so excited to be in the $130,000s!

Frugal Family Spring Fun

After a long, wet winter, we are thankful it is finally spring! It is just so nice to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors.

I’ve been doing my best to brainstorm both free and low cost activities for my family to enjoy this season. While working to become mortgage free, I want every cent possible to go towards our home debt! As I’m writing this, debt free screams from Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel is playing in the background. If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is!

Without further ado, here are a few frugal spring fun ideas for you!

  • Utilize your memberships. If your family owns a membership to a zoo or museum, use it often. Be sure to return whenever a new exhibit is unveiled. If your family gets tired going to the same places over and over again, try to switch up the order you look at things, or only visit half of the exhibits on each visit to change up the experience. Be sure to see if your membership is reciprocal to other venues in the area. A lot of times, they are.
  • Visit local State Parks and Historic Sites. State Parks and Historic Sites are usually free or low cost. My children love to visit nature centers at State Parks, and they usually are all unique. Hiking trails are also a fun way to spend your day.
  • Check out the events scheduled in your community. Spring is a hoppin’ time for fairs and festivals. These are usually free!
  • Look for ways to integrate frugal fun into your home. Our family has been growing a vegetable garden from seed this year. It has been super economical, and several of our children have loved planting our garden and watching it grow.
  • Take nature walks and bike rides around your neighborhood. Spring is bursting with new life to observe!
  • Utilize your local library. Not only will you be able to check out books for free, many libraries offer free programs for children.

Family time can be full of fun without breaking the bank! Fill your calendar with frugal activities and meeting your financial goals will not seem painful, but fun!

Mortgage Paydown Week is Here! (4-14-19)

Ah, our mortgage payoff week is here! It seriously feels like my birthday every two weeks. Watching our principal number fall is amazing! Lord willing, we will be in the $130,000s by the end of the week. We were in the $240,000s less than two years ago, and being at this point today still doesn’t quite seem real!

We track our mortgage pay down closely by using the amortization schedule we received at closing. We put 5% down on our home which was purchased for $255,000 on August 25, 2017. By December, we had knocked out our PMI after our house in Georgia sold. We then declared war and have been putting whatever we can towards our mortgage.

Being both debt free otherwise and pretty frugal have helped us tremendously. Our finances wouldn’t look like they do now without many sacrifices and cuts to our lifestyle.

So here’s to reaching the $130,000’s. I will post another update later in the week.

Have a fabulous week, y’all!

You Can Only Fix a Financial Problem by Fixing Yourself

When I first read this quote by Nancy Levin, I found myself nodding in agreement. I mean, how true is this?

Looking back, I spent a lot of years blaming our financial situation on the economy and other outside circumstances besides myself. Not that I thought our finances were in “bad shape” at the time. No, we were perfectly “normal” and were living life just like everyone else we knew.

For a long time, I didn’t realize there was anything inside of myself to fix. But oh, there was. I was comparing myself to others and I wanted to make sure my children had the same experiences as their friends. Nevermind the fact that we were in our twenties and had to use a credit card to fund all of these extras. Our net worth was non-existent. Our finances were a mess, and I didn’t even know it.

I needed to fix myself in a big way. I don’t want to give all of the credit to myself, though. I know God was behind the scenes leading me along.

I would like to share a few mindsets that needed to be “fixed” before our finances started looking up. If you are facing the same issues, a big hug to you!

  • The “I Deserve It” Mentality. Oh, boy. There have been so many times I purchased things I haven’t needed because I thought I deserved them. Ladies, I was robbing my future when I did this! That excess food and clothing was not worth the hit our bank account took.
  • The Victim Mentality. This mentality kind of goes hand in hand with the “I Deserve It” mentality. Life hasn’t always been kind to me. When it wasn’t kind, what did I feel like I needed to do? Shop. I thought shopping lessened the hard knocks in life. But all I was doing was avoiding the real problem and prolonging my pain.
  • The “I Can’t Do Anything Differently” Mentality. Oh my, I held on to this mentality for way too long. For years, I really didn’t think I could do anything differently. I looked around me, and we appeared to be in the norm. What could we do differently? The thought of changing my lifestyle was so unthinkable I told myself there was absolutely nothing I could do to change our financial trajectory.

How to Let Go of These Limiting Mindsets

I think the first thing that must be done to let go of these mindsets is to recognize them for what they are. Limiting. They limit our true potential and hold us back from living a life of financial freedom.

I personally had to stop worrying about what others thought of me. And the funny thing is, I highly doubt others thought about me nearly as much as I thought they did, ha!

I had to really think through the goals I had for my family. I had to think about the legacy I wanted to leave. Were my old financial habits going to leave a good legacy to my family? Absolutely not! I had to make a plan to change, and follow though even when it was hard.

I had to learn how to budget. I had to learn how to prioritize spending. I had to learn so much, y’all. I’m still definitely a work in progress but I’m so grateful for the progress I’ve made.

This Savvy Cents Wallet is a great budgeting tool!

Have you had to change your mindset while pursuing financial freedom? If so, please share. I’d love to hear from you!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Five Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

April is here, and do you know what that means? It’s tax return season! I’m so excited for you guys who are receiving a refund! But wait just a second before you rush out and spend that refund on new furniture or a big screen TV. You have a real opportunity here to boost your financial situation. Imagine what peace that would bring!

I would love to share a few ideas for you to consider spending your tax refund on. These items will really help you get where you want to go in life!

  1. Get current on your bills. Ladies, here’s your chance! If you are not current on your bills, use your refund to make them current ASAP. The security you will feel is priceless!
  2. Fund your emergency fund. If you follow Dave Ramsey’s principles, you probably are familiar with the $1,000 baby emergency fund he advocates for. While getting out of debt, this fund will help you not accumulate even more debt. This will help you reach your goals so much faster! We currently use Ally Bank to house our emergency fund, and their APR is now at 2.20%.
  3. Pay down your debt. Whether you use the debt snowball (paying your debts from smallest to largest) or the debt avalanche (paying your debts from highest to smallest interest rate) method, deciding to use your tax refund to pay your debts is a huge investment in yourself! You want your money to be earning money, not the other way around. If you are out of consumer and student loan debt, attack that mortgage!
  4. Stop the paycheck to paycheck cycle. You have got a fabulous opportunity here! Would you like to stop living the paycheck to paycheck life? Use your tax refund to pay for next months obligations. Before you know it you will be a month ahead, and living paycheck to paycheck will be a thing of the past.
  5. Invest. First of all, I’m not a financial advisor, and doing your own research if deciding to invest is crucial. But wouldn’t you like your money to start earning you money? Yes! Sending your tax refund to an investment account will likely do that if you give it time to grow and you do your reasearch. I’m partial to low fee mutual funds and ETFs. The Simple Path to Wealth is a must read in my opinion when it comes to investing.

So, there you have it! What are you planning to spend your tax refund on? We sent a chunk to our mortgage, and replenished our emergency fund after repairing a driveway flooding issue.

I hope your week has been fabulous so far!

This post includes affiliate links at no cost to you.

Our Mortgage Pay Down Report – First Quarter 2019

Ah, I can hardly believe we are $18,498 lighter than we were in December. It is an amazing feeling!

The first quarter of 2019 was a good one for us. The profit from my Etsy shop was able to cover our food budget along with a few other bills and our extras, like an anniversary camping trip. We also utilized part of our tax refund to pay down our mortgage. While I know it isn’t always ideal to receive a refund, since we are given so many child tax credits with eight kids, it is inevitable at the moment. If you do receive a refund, I’d love to encourage you to spend it wisely.

We have lots of extras on the horizon, including two birthdays and a graduation. April probably won’t be as good to us as March was.

I often use an early mortgage payoff calculator to play around with numbers. You can find my favorite one here. It is super simple. All you do is input your payment information along with how quickly you would like to pay off your mortgage. It then let’s you know how much extra you should send to your principal to achieve your goal.

Three years ago we were living paycheck to paycheck and I never guessed this would one day be our reality. Believe me, if we can do it, you can!

Reasons to Downsize to a Smaller Home

We have recently downsized. And let me tell ya, it has been really hard for me to do.

I had no idea just how attached I was to stuff. And space. Without even realizing it, I had attached myself to items that don’t even matter. Downsizing is sanctifying. It really is. Every time I ignore my flesh and continue to purge, a small victory is won.

To be perfectly honest, downsizing was not my first choice. But the idea of debt freedom is so sweet, I knew this is what we needed to do. We are a family of ten, y’all. It has been hard. We no longer have that $800 utility bill though, and so many other things have been much cheaper, too. It really has propelled us forward in our debt free journey.

There are many, many benefits to downsizing homes. I thought I would share a small list of ways taking the plunge and moving into a smaller home is good for our family life. This has helped me to see hidden blessings in this season that we are in. So here are my top ten reasons why downsizing has been a good thing for us!

  1. Living in close quarters hones our patience.
  2. Our children will be better equipped to share, get along with, and even live with others once they enter adulthood.
  3. It is easier to monitor what type of material enters our homes when they are smaller.
  4. There are naturally more conversations when living in tight quarters, and relationships blossom.
  5. Much less time is spent cleaning, and more time is spent with our families.
  6. Finances are freed up, and more of our resources can go towards meaningful goals. Utility bills are cheaper as well,
  7. Financial and debt freedom is more easily attainable.
  8. Bad attitudes are seen more plainly, and we can address heart issues faster.
  9. Our children will learn that stuff isn’t as important as they once thought it was.
  10. Hopefully, one day we will see a shift from the materialistic culture we live in now.

I try my best to be quick to remind myself of the hidden “downsize blessings” that naturally occur whenever I miss our old home. Besides that, our finances look totally different now, which is huge.

What about you? Please feel free to share your favorite thing about downsizing with us!

How We Paid Off Over $30,000 in Six Months

(Hello, friends! I wrote the following post almost two years ago on a different website when we were just starting our debt free journey. I thought it might be good to share here is well. At the moment, $152,000 of our debt has bit the dust!)

If you would have told me six months ago that we would be $30,000 less in debt today, I would have laughed. We were seriously tapped out. Unless I put in time at my etsy store, I thought that we had absolutely no money to squeeze out of our budget each month. Well, if you could call our method “a budget,” that is. We pretty much bought whatever we thought we “needed” and then wondered where our money went each month.

Out of a sense of desperation, I decided to look into Dave Ramsey and purchased The Total Money Makeover. I devoured it! I didn’t know if we could really make the debt snowball work for us, but we decided to give it a try. We started cutting back in small areas, and before we knew it we had saved $4,250…just enough to pay for the new heat pump that we needed. I was astonished. We had NEVER been able to pay for an item that cost this amount without going into debt. With newfound determination, we decided to give it all we got. We are now $30,000 in debt lighter, and it feels so good! At the time of this writing, we are down to owing money on my student loan debt ($32,000) and our mortgage. I thought it would be fun to share the things that have worked for us since we are basically at the half-way point, mortgage aside. All glory goes to God!

This book is amazing. Seriously!

◾Get a good budgeting app. We personally went with the free version of Every Dollar, and it helped us really understand where our money was going at all times. For this to work, I had to be diligent to add every purchase. For a monthly fee per month the app can be linked to your bank account, but I was not willing to pay it!

◾If you don’t have the cash don’t buy it. Seriously. Stick to that budget. If a true emergency comes up, use the emergency fund. I’ve had to say “no” to many extras that just weren’t in the budget. It is difficult, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

◾Stay encouraged and motivated. After purchasing The Total Money Makeover, I started watching Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel. These short episodes kept me motivated when I was tired of our new lifestyle. I have the phrase “DEBT = RISK” written on the white board in our kitchen as a reminder to me each day.

◾Cut the grocery budget where you can. We started going to Aldi on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, and only purchase a few items at Walmart. I began meal planning for the first time ever, and utilized the Freezer Cooking Meal Plan from Passion for Savings. Our family of ten now has a monthly grocery budget of $650.

◾Cut extracurriculars. This was a tough one for me. One of my oldest daughters is really involved in ballet, and it was taking up so much time and money. We were gone 5-6 days per week sometimes. We found a less expensive school where she only goes three days per week now. She loves it, thankfully!

◾Cut your vacation budget. Dave Ramsey advocates for no vacations until debt is paid off, but we have gone camping one time. While in Savannah, we spent our time at either low-cost or no-cost activities, and we didn’t even visit a single seafood restaurant. This was tough for me, ha! We do plan on taking a few more camping trips before too long. The kids really enjoy it!

◾Shop at consignment stores. I have been doing this for awhile anyhow, but it is definitely a big help. I do tend to purchase my boys clothes new since boys are so hard on clothes and there really isn’t much for them at second hand shops in my experience.

◾Use your tax refund to pay down your debt. Our tax refund was almost $10,000, and we put all of it on our debt. It wasn’t really hard at the time, because I was so motivated by the books I was reading and videos I was watching.

◾Shop around for insurance. We realized that we were paying WAY too much on our home insurance, and we shopped around for a lower rate. We ended up going with a different company that saved us $200 per month, AND we received nearly a $2,000 refund from our escrow account, which promptly was used to pay down debt.

◾Make sacrifices. We need a new cooktop, but they aren’t cheap. Instead, we purchased a $30 countertop double burner from Walmart. It isn’t ideal, but it works until we are ready to invest in a replacement cooktop.

◾Cut cable and other similar expenditures. We were able to find a new cell phone plan that saves us $60 per month, and we cut cable only to have it turned back on one week later at a much lower rate and a $200 gift card offer. We used the gift card to buy groceries, so even more money could go towards our debt.

◾Be content with what you have. If it’s not broken, don’t buy a new one. Try to find ways to use what you already have. These are a few of my new mantras. I’ve also tried to become more content with staying at home. When I leave the house I usually spend money!

◾Use your talent to make extra income. If it wasn’t for my etsy shop, we wouldn’t have paid down our debt as quickly as we have. If you have any skills that you can put to use in your home, I suggest giving it a try. But don’t go into debt to start a new business. It doesn’t necessarily take money to make money.

◾Use the Debt Snowball. When you pay off one debt, put the money you were using on that debt on your next one. We have paid off our debts from smallest to largest, and it’s nice to wave good-bye as they begin to drop off quickly.

◾MY #1 TIP IS…Pray and give it to God. Give Him all of the glory for all He has done. If your debt is being reduced, He is ultimately behind it. Just last week we were $570 away from paying off our travel trailer, and then we received two checks totaling $580 in our mailbox. We had overpaid our oral surgeon nearly five months ago, and had no idea. God was definitely at work!

What are we going to do next? Well, I’m not entirely sure. If we were to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan to a T, we would start attacking my student loans. I don’t like having only $1,000 in savings however. I think we might have our land surveyed and try to sell a piece of it to pay off my loans while building our Emergency Fund. If the sale of the land doesn’t work out, we will dump what we’ve saved on the Student Loans. That is our loose plan, anyhow.

While I do not know what the future holds, I look at debt in a totally different light now. While we hope to avoid it entirely, I know at least we will strive to only make purchases if we can pay cash, or have a substantial down payment in hand. I used to think I could afford an item if I could afford it’s payment. No more! We went from thinking we had NOTHING to use to pay extra on debt to having a decent sized debt-snowball to throw on it each month. Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope this post has encouraged you. If we can do this with eight children, you can as well!

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Win with Your Finances

This morning I was really encouraged by an Instagram post from Ramsey Solutions, and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you guys. The post read, “Success is not one big splash. You win with excellence in the ordinary. Do the right thing, the right way, everyday.”

Boy, isn’t this the truth? Personal finance, if done the right way, is rather boring. It consists of thousands of tiny right choices that build upon each other.

To get our finances in order we don’t need to be perfect, but consistent. I mess up sometimes. For example, over the weekend we attended a craft fair and I spent nearly $30 on Palmetto Moon hair bows for my little girls. Nearly $30! I walked in thinking my max spending budget would be around $10. At least I walked away from that adorable $40 birdhouse, ha!

While I am disappointed in my moment of emotional overspending, we are doing okay overall because we are making the right financial choices at least 95% of the time. It seems ordinary and boring. Buying hair bows or whatever else sits on the store shelves is much more fun and exciting…in the moment.

“Excellence in the ordinary” takes both a plan and a deep desire to see a financial turnaround to execute properly. I normally do not buy $30 worth of hair bows because I know little sacrifices now will help us reach our overarching goal of paying off our house and reaching financial independence in other ways.

I would love to encourage you to start taking small steps today. And then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. Before you know it, healthy financial habits have been created, and you will be winning with money!