We Paid Off the House!

Guys, I can hardly believe it. On December 19, 2019, we paid off our house!

We weren’t planning on being this gazelle. But after our mortgage company started giving us a hard time about making additional payments in November, we knew we just wanted to be done. Also, after having our new baby earlier in the month, I was totally over all of the overtime my husband was working. I wanted him to be home more often, but he was committed to working long hours until our home was paid off.

So we cashed out some investments. We used my husband’s entire bonus. And we nearly drained our emergency fund. After doing this we were able to pay off the mortgage several months sooner than anticipated.

It feels so surreal. We are taking a minute to breathe before deciding our next steps. Building up our savings account again is crucial, so that comes first. After that, I don’t know what goal should come next. We want to start a car fund since both of our vehicles have over 200,000 miles. We also want to save for a house upgrade or land. We were able to pay off our current home relatively quickly since we downsized twice during the last three years. My dream is to one day live in a home similar to the one we left in 2017, but this time without a mountain of debt. I do not want to be house poor ever again!

The peace financial freedom brings is much better than feeling poor while living in a large home. We are not financially free yet, but I know paying off our current home is a huge step in the right direction. We are so grateful and thankful to be done with this mortgage!

June 2019 Mortgage Paydown Update

June is coming to a close, and so is our monthly mortgage paydown. We closed on our new cabin on May 31st, and this month I’ve solely been focused on paying it down as quickly as possible. Interest at the beginning of loans is killer! Our South Carolina home is on the market and we are praying that it might sell before too long.

We purchased our cabin for $200,000. After putting 5% down, our loan was for $190,000. We are now sitting at $184,980.

Looking at our amortization schedule, we have paid the equivalent of 20 payments! If we had made the first payment only, our balance would have gone down only $240 or so.

I’m going to be on attack mode to skip as much interest as possible. Once our previous home sells, we should be sitting in a nice spot.

This kind of paydown has been made possible with the Lord’s help and lots of saying “no.” We have been on this debt-free journey for around 2.5 years now, and it has been so worth it.

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!

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!

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Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired – Part 2

Let’s start where we left off in Part 1 of our story. In 2013, our home went under contract quickly, and we were left scrambling for a new home. Where we ended up wasn’t my ideal choice at the time, though my husband loved it. It was an older farmhouse which doubled our living space, and it sat on 12 acres. What we didn’t realize was the huge increase in heating costs it would bring. Our summer electric and gas bill amounted to $800 per month!

We did not have the extra funds to sink into new windows and new heat pumps, amongst other things. Yet we did purchase a new travel trailer and owned fairly new vehicles. We went to Disney World every other year. Priorities, right? We were perfectly normal, and I didn’t believe we could do anything differently.

Near the end of 2016 I came across a mention of Dave Ramsey in a totally unrelated YouTube video, and I decided to purchase The Total Money Makeover. The rest is history. My husband had suggested we learn from his teachings a long time ago, but I told him there was nothing we could do differently so it wasn’t worth our time. How foolish!

After reading The Total Money Makeover, we cash flowed a new heat pump in two months time. I was astonished. How did we do that? We then started knocking out the rest of our van debt, our travel trailer debt, a small credit card, and a personal loan. At that point my husband found a new job five hours away which would really help our cause.

Given our large family and menagerie of animals, we purchased a new home in South Carolina and moved before we put our home in Georgia on the market. Totally not Dave approved, but we didn’t want to separate our family for a time and renting wasn’t a good option for us. Once our home in Georgia sold, we made a profit of around $70,000 after fees. We used $30,000 to pay off the remainder of my student loans, and put $40,000 on the principal of our new home. We purchased it for $255,000 in late 2017. At the time of this writing, we owe $141,397.

Our home is about the same size as the one I purchased in 2004. We did cash flow a garage conversion in 2018 to give us a bit of extra space. It sits on six acres of land. One downfall is it’s distance from my husband’s workplace. Nearly 60 miles! But we’ve made this sacrifice for now as we continue to work on our finances. Frugality has become a way of life for us until we dig ourselves farther out of the hole we are in. We would love to be mortgage free!

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Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired – Part 1

Since I just started this new blog, I thought I would share a bit of my background. Growing up, I was not financially literate. At all. While I knew my mother liked to budget and needs always seemed to be met as a child, I was never taught the nuts and bolts of it. My father did spend some time talking about how to use credit cards, but that was about it.

Young and married at 19, I started racking up credit card debt. I thought credit cards were the means to get where you want to be. I became a widow at age 22, and the cards were paid off using money from survivors benefits.

I learned that being in debt wasn’t ideal, but as a single mom to three young children ages 3, 2, and newborn I found myself back there quick, fast, and in a hurry. I remarried at age 24, and finances started looking up.

Then came the market crash of 2008. Our home that we purchased for $150,000? Now worth half of that. We were stuck in a neighborhood where one evening large booms had us scrambling to our window. Low and behold, a SWAT team was standing in our front yard as a meth lab across the street was raided. Yep, this home was purchased by a very under qualified buyer, like the many who caused the recession in the first place.

Our neighborhood was riddled with foreclosures. At this time I was just thankful my husband hadn’t lost his job. Many people we knew had, including both of our parents. This is when I began my Etsy Store making clothing for little girls. Unbelievably, there was still a market for it.

In 2013, we were finally able to get out of our house. We still owed $100,000, and had a contract on it for $120,000. It only appraised for $115,000, so we had to lower the purchase price. We lost so much money on this house, but it could have been much worse. At the time I was desperate to leave our half-vacant neighborhood and felt like our now six children deserved better. It wouldn’t be long before I realized my entitlement mentality was way out of line as we stepped into a house with a $800 utility bill during the summer!

I will be sharing more of our story soon. In the meantime, please take a look at Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover. It gave me hope and a road map to follow in 2016 when I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Read Part 2 of our story here.

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