Posts from the “About Me” Category

Our Farmhouse Story

Since much of what I talk about has to do with remodeling projects at our home, I think it would be good for everyone to know how we ended up living in our 80 year old farmhouse.

We lived on one third of an acre when we got married. Yes that’s 0.33 or 1/3 of an acre. The house was a good deal in a decent neighborhood. Not too far from our jobs, families, or church. It was fairly low maintenance but we didn’t love it. I honestly didn’t know you could love a house. Our plan had always been to stay in the house at least a couple of years to avoid capital gains taxes, then sell to buy the next one. Before having Audrey, we thought we would like to live on the lake. Our priorities shifted and we wanted to have land and animals for her to grow up with.

photo above: our old house

We must have looked at 50 houses during the time we lived there trying to find the one that was right for us. The thing that always bothered us was the idea of going back into debt. We didn’t want to feel that weight again even if it was just while we waited for our house to sell. It seemed even less likely that we could move once I had quit my job at the bank. We were still adjusting to living on one income. We couldn’t possibly add a house payment.

One morning in January when Keith got up to go to work at 5:00 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I did something I did quite often which was search for foreclosures on zillow.com. This time I noticed a house saved in my favorites that I didn’t remember ever saving. The funny thing was, I hadn’t saved any houses. It was the only house in my favorites. It was a smaller house in rough shape on almost four acres of land, with over 100 acres of farmland surrounding it. I decided to look up the house on the county website to find out what the deal was with it. It had just been sold at the foreclosure auction at the courthouse to an investment company. I googled the investment company. A little sentence on their website intrigued me. It said ” Unless you just want to take it off our hands before the work begins, when we’re done, all you’ll have to do is unpack.” I would much rather do the work myself on a house than have an investor pick out everything paint color and piece of flooring that is going in my house. Also, the price would have doubled if it had been move in ready. I decided to email the investor. She responded that they couldn’t sell the house right now because they were renting it to the previous owner until they could find a place to go. I had never heard of this happening. She also said they only sold houses before the work was finished if it was a cash sale. I put that idea in the back of my mind and we kept looking at other houses.

Keith and I kept praying that God would show us what to do. The more we prayed and talked, the more we felt like God wanted us to trust Him and just put our house up for sale. If our house sold quickly and we needed to rent for a couple of months until we found something we could. This would also free us up to pay cash for the next house. My home is my nest, so this was very scary for me especially with a one year old.

We worked until we got our house ready to put on the market. Our real estate agent sent a photographer out to take pictures on April 21, 2017. It took him a few days to get the pictures to our realtor so the house didn’t go up for sale with an mls# until April 27th at 11:00 a.m. This is where I know God stepped in and took over our situation. Two hours later on the same day our house went on the market, the investor who had purchased the white farmhouse I had emailed about in January called me. The renter had moved out and they were willing to show us the house. We met with the investors at 6:00 p.m. that night. They showed us the house. They asked what our money situation was since the house needed some major repairs (roof and windows) that a bank wouldn’t loan money on. We had saved my entire paycheck for almost a year while we were practicing living on one income before I quit work but we still only had $25,000 to put down. They were willing to take what we had and let us pay the rest when our other house sold! This is so unheard of in the real estate business. We told them we liked the house but would like to pray about it and let them know our decision in the morning.They left us in the house and told us to lock up when we were finished looking at anything we wanted to see. As the couple drove away I stood in the living room of our farmhouse crying, in awe of what had just happened. We had not only found our home but God had also answered our prayer about not taking out another mortgage.

 

photo above: our farmhouse before we did ANY work to it

The next day, we had 3 offers on our old house. One was even over the asking price. We signed the contract to sell our old house on the same day we signed the contract to buy our farmhouse. Since we were buying our new house without a bank, the sellers let us start moving our stuff in before we even closed with the attorney. Keith had already taken a week off of work so that we could go to the beach. We cancelled the beach trip and spent the week getting one room ready to live in at the farmhouse. We painted and put down new flooring in our bedroom. Audrey slept in the room with us with a window unit air conditioner until we could have our new HVAC system installed after we had the check from the sale of our old house. It was a rough couple of weeks but we could see God’s hand working in our lives. When it seemed impossible to buy a house without a mortgage, God did the impossible. When word got out about how quickly our house sold, I had people asking me to help them sell theirs or find another house. The truth is, the house did sell in one day on the market but it took months of Keith and I praying and seeking God’s will to lead up to selling it. It didn’t really all happen in one day.

I know people thought we were crazy when they saw the house before we did any work on it. Some probably still think we are crazy but we love living here. I love refinishing old pieces of furniture I dug out of the barn out back. I love how quiet it is when I walk through the woods. I love that we have fig and pecan trees, muscadine vines and wild blackberries growing. I love seeing turkeys, deer and other wild life in the back yard. I love discovering old things like the cellar we found in the woods or an old watering can under the house.  I love knowing that God had a plan for us the whole time we were trying to figure things out and make it work on our own.

I bought my first foreclosure when I was 24 years old and we are living in our third foreclosure. It seems like we have lived in a construction zone our entire marriage. I could give readers all kinds of advice on the subject of buying, remodeling and selling houses but my number one piece of advice is to pray and trust God.

photo above: our house now

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.

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