Our debt free story
I have tons of ideas to write about… I promise, I just can’t think of one right now! Actually, I can think of about 50 but choosing one to be the first is harder than it seems. The reason for starting this blog is to share with people how my family of three lives a debt free lifestyle on one income of $30,000 per year before taxes. No lie. So I guess the best place to start is the beginning of our story. How we became debt free.
Keith and I started dating on February 19, 2010. He picked me up in his red Dodge Ram 1500. We went to a movie then rode down muddy dirt rodes in 4 wheel drive. No, I’m not kidding. 😉
I had just purchased my first foreclosure the year before and was about $84,000 in debt. I financed the house at 100% for 30 years. It was a good deal, since the house was worth about $100,000. Right? Wrong. Fast forward 3 years and I had begun to realize that paying over $4,000 per year in interest on my home loan had almost eaten up any potential profit. By this time, Keith and I were getting more serious but he was dead set against living in my house. The solution? Sell the house before I was completely in the hole. It took about 4 months sitting on the market to sell but I wound up with a $16,000 check and living back in my old bedroom at my parents house at 28 years old. How humbling.
Keith and I were spending more time together than apart so we decided to combine our resources and house shop together this time. Including the money Keith had saved up himself, we had about $40,000 combined and set out to look for another good deal. We bought the worst house in a decent neighborhood. We snagged it for $67,000. This time we only financed $30,000 for 5 years. The total interest on the life of the loan was quoted at around $3,000. My parents gave us hardwood floors for a wedding gift in place of paying for a big wedding (our wedding cost about $500.) His parents bought the paint and a new refrigerator. Then we could do everything else the house needed a little at a time. With both of our incomes going toward the house, this should be a breeze. We should have tons of money leftover each month! Um, wait… what happened to our money? Oh, here’s the Lowe’s receipt or should I say box of receipts?!? In our zest for fixing up the house we had gotten a little swipe happy with the debit card and in three months of married life had saved $0.
While sitting at my desk at the bank where we had our loan, I started to look at numbers. If we could put all the remodeling plans on hold and focus all of our funds toward our debt, we could cut the life of our loan in half! The ugly white vinyl kitchen floors and new couch would have to wait. I text Keith. He was totally on board. We made envelopes for all the categories we needed. Each pay check, we stuffed the envelopes and put everything else straight on the principal of the loan. We also found this cool spreadsheet for paying off debt and started taking turns coloring in the boxes. Coloring was never so liberating. Suddenly things we were saving up for could wait and the money went straight toward our debt. We could split a plate at the Mexican restaurant then our leftover eating out money could color another box! Our excitement spread like wild fire. A year later, our church offered a class on finances called Financial Peace University. We were already paying off debt but knew we could still benefit from the class. We learned so much more about things like insurance, retirement, the joy of giving and most of all what the Bible has to say about money. During the class Keith came to me and said he wanted to sell his truck. The big, red, loud 4 wheel drive truck that we had went on our first date in. He drove a small truck to work to save gas so the truck wasn’t really a necessity but it did have sentimental value to us. It was worth around $2000 which would cover what we owed. It sold within a few days. Keith came to the bank the next day and we paid off our house! It took us a total of 17 months! We had enough money left to split a plate of Mexican food to celebrate. I’ll never forget pulling into the drive way of our house that day after work. Everything about it looked exactly the same as it did that morning when I left but the way I felt about the house had totally changed. It was Ours.
Fast-forward to today. We are still debt free. We still stuff our envelopes with cash on pay day. I’m a stay at home mom to our 2 year old daughter. We live in our third foreclosure, a farmhouse on almost 4 acres. Cows are our next door neighbors. We have 2 dogs, a cat, chickens, goats and dream of adding other animals. We have about 1,000 projects still left to do but we are learning to be patient and wait until we have the money to pay cash for them. We shop at thrift stores, consignment and yard sales. We sell things on eBay. We don’t have television service. We have learned to live differently in so many ways that I want to share our experiences with you. We probably are weird but it works for us. We are happy.