It wasn't our family room either...
that room is still a HOT MESS.
Finn, perhaps? Nope. Still hasn't mastered this walking thing. Sure, he's taken several steps in a row (more each day, I think) but the kid still prefers to scoot around like a little army dude.
So what could our big accomplishment be??
See that piece of paper up there that Mitch is holding? That, my friends, is the last payment for our house.
Our house is officially paid off.
Not sure if you got that...
WE TOTALLY OWN OUR HOUSE!
Can I tell ya a little bit how we did it? I'm hoping and praying this post doesn't come across the wrong way (like bragging in any way). It's just a huge milestone that we're really proud of hitting and I thought you guys would like to hear about it.
Let me tell ya from the outset that we're in no way experts when it comes to this whole money thing. We never followed a budget (and all the Dave Ramsey people just fainted). Pretty much because the thought of one put me into cardiac arrest. Basically, here's our secret: we're just cheap. And from the very beginning of our marriage, we've had the desire to pay off our house ASAP. Well, ASAP while living somewhat comfortably. That was a huge stipulation on my part. I didn't wanna "live in the poor house" while paying off our house, ya know what I mean? This girl likes to get her thrift on way too much to pinch every.single.penny.
How we did it
1. Both Mitch and I went into our marriage completely debt-free.
Let me back up--we both graduated from college almost debt-free. Mitch had most of his entire four-year tuition paid his freshman year. (take a sec to process that thought) Yeah. The boy knows how to save. I had one small school loan that got paid off the summer after I graduated. And before you think we have really rich parents, we both paid our own way for college. (we paid for most of our wedding too)
2. We didn't drive fancy cars (until recently when we bought my dream vehicle, our Honda Odyssey. It's true...owning this sweet minivan was my dream...ha!)
It didn't matter to us that we drove beaters. Sure, sometimes it was hard (for me) when pretty much all our friends/people around us were driving brand new/newer vehicles and we'd pull up in our smashed-in minivan. (We literally bought a minivan that was smashed in on the side. I was preggers with Finn and we needed something bigger and that was all we could afford at the time. When we got some extra money, we had the side replaced.) Mitch still drives what used to be my car, from before we were married. 1999 Honda Civic, baby! Still purrs like a kitten...that's dying a slow torturous death. Seriously, Mitch "doesn't hear" bangs, clanks, or rattles. When I ask him, "Hey what's that noise?" He says, "Hey how 'bout them Flyers?! Playin' some good hockey, eh?"
3. We saved up
So not only were we debt-free going into our marriage, Mitch had saved up $30K to put down on our house. Say what??? Told ya the boy can save. And I had saved a measly $10K myself to contribute to our down payment. Also, one thing that we've done over the years is save up for a specific project/item. I remember Mitch worked some Saturdays to save up to buy the wood to finish our stairwell. That money was specifically for that project. He had other jobs (website work) that paid for other projects. Right now I'm saving up to have two chairs reupholstered. I've been saving for two years. I may have gotten side-tracked a time or ten with other purchases, but the thing is, we saved up. (And I finally have enough to pull the trigger on them...unless I buy a rug instead.) I've also sold stuff on Craigslist, at a Vintage Sale, and on Facebook to save toward a project or two.
4. We didn't buy "new"
You guys already know how I love a good deal, thrifting, etc. Well the only way we could afford to renovate our house was to think outside the "box-store box" and buy secondhand. So we scoured Craigslist like it was our job looking for toilets, bathtubs, vanities, pretty much any/everything we needed to complete our renovation on a budget. And ya know what? It worked. Took a bit longer than what the average person might have been comfortable with waiting for, but we completed our renovation debt-free.
We buy most of our clothes secondhand as well. Growing up, I used to be embarrassed walking into/out of thrift stores with my parents. I prayed that we didn't run into anyone we knew. Now, I can't imagine paying "regular price" for something. I think we look just fine in our thrift store garb!
I also do my food shopping at discount grocery stores. We're blessed to live in an area that has stores where you can get a case of organic yogurt for $2.99. I seriously thank God all the time for BBs, Sharp Shopper, and even good ol' Shady Maple (a few weeks ago I got a case of strawberries--8 quarts--for $3.99. So thankful I can feed my family good healthy food on a budget.
5. We made extra payments
Early on in our marriage when I was working as a Christian school teacher, I decided to put pretty much my whole paycheck toward paying off our home. (I'm sure I saved a few bucks to hit up Goodwill though.) We just kept chippin' away. Obviously it was harder once we started having babies and I stayed at home. Living on one income is tough, there's no way around it. But somehow we've managed to do it, while paying off our home, and even renovating. We've always had the attitude that God will provide. And we can totally attest to that. Guys, it seriously doesn't add up on paper (Mitch does NOT have an incredibly paying job), but somehow here we are. God is good. And has always been faithful to us. We do what we can and He provides the rest. Maybe that sounds like a good luck charm to some, but we've tried to live within our means, and I think God has really blessed us because of it.
6. We didn't buy things we couldn't afford
This sounds pretty logical, but it's amazing to us how many people "live above their means." Our philosophy is: if we can't afford it, we don't get it. I think so many people (myself included) get sucked into the idea of "buy it now!" that we often times forget that we really can't afford it in the first place.
7. We did without
Sometimes you simply have to "do without" in order to get ahead. About four years ago, things were tight so we looked at getting rid of "extras." Cable TV was the first to go. We realized that the couple Flyers games a week that Mitch loved to watch weren't worth the $100+ a month. I know Mitch misses watching his hockey games, but that was one "sacrifice" he was willing to make to help us achieve our goal (and I'm SO thankful). Also, technology. Mitch's work pays for his phone service, but it would have cost us money out of our pocket if he wanted to upgrade to a smart phone. He held out until just a couple months ago when his company gave him the green light in that department. He now has a Samsung Galaxy. And I only got an iPhone about a year and a half ago. So when everyone else was surfing the web on their phones, we were the ones hoping to not drop a call. Can you hear me now??
We did have help
I'd be remiss to not mention the fact that family has helped us a lot. Mitch and I never took out a house loan through a bank. Instead, we borrowed from family members (we still paid interest on that money, but at the time, it was lower than a bank's rates).
Also, not to sound morbid, but when one of Mitch's grandfathers died, we did get a little bit of money. We used that toward extra payments.
Even though our house is paid off, we're not completely out of the woods yet. We still owe money on our minivan (our first ever car payment) as well as our kitchen. When we renovated our garage, I convinced Mitch of the need for a new kitchen. But we didn't have the money for it then. We borrowed it from family. (So much for not getting things we can't afford, right? See, I told you, we're no experts here.) In our defense, we felt like it was something we should just go for (a local carpenter made our cabinets for a really good price) since we were already tearing everything else apart in our home, that was the time to "git 'er done."
And of course, you know there's always another project(s) we're working on (like the bathroom, family room, etc.), so now we'll hopefully have a few extra bucks around at the end of the month to help knock those projects off.
We would also like to start giving more. I believe one reason God has blessed us is that we were faithful in our giving back to Him. Some months we had to hold off until later to give our tithe at church, but we always did eventually give. We would love to start sponsoring a child through Compassion International or another such organization. We agree it'd be a great way to teach our boys to show Christ's love to others who are in need.
So a little over nine years later and our house is officially ours. It's kinda hard for us to fathom. But man...does it feel incredible! Yes, there were tough times...tight times...but I'm so glad we kept our eye on the goal and now we can breathe a little bit easier. And seriously, guys, if we can do it, YOU CAN TOO! Just set some goals and start chippin' away at them. Before you know it, your "little white rancher" can be paid off too.