We Did It!

When Marshall and I married nearly five years ago, we brought with us the proverbial baggage of credit card debt, student loans and car notes along for the ride.

I think from the start of our marriage we knew this was not what we wanted for our future as man and wife and eventual family. Girded with the knowledge of how to get out of debt (thank you very much Dave Ramsey) and the biblical command to let no debt remain outstanding (Romans 13:8 ) we began chipping away at the financial shackles with which we had allowed ourselves to be bound by poor choices.

In the first year of our marriage we reduced our cumulative debt drastically and had stopped using our credit cards all together.

As we approached our third year of marriage with a baby on the way, we became even more aggressive in reducing our debt. Just one month before the arrival of our sweet baby boy we were able to share with everyone that we were debt free! No car payment. No credit card looming over our head. Sweet, sweet financial freedom was ours!

Not only that but we had a small emergency fund and enough money saved to pay cash to purchase a second used vehicle (a much needed purchase) just months after our son was born.

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Our New (To Us) Truck

 

After a few months of relishing in our financial freedom and finally finding our way out of the baby fog we began to pursue our next goals of building up a substantial emergency fund and saving for a home. As we approached yet another anniversary in sharing life together, we celebrated the financial milestone of securing that suggested 3-6 months living expenses emergency fund. Ours teeters on about 4 months of survival money that we hope we never have to touch but are thankful is available in the event there is a need.

And so we began our house fund. My husband, being the creative genius he is, even designed a ‘thermometer house’ that we would fill in red the appropriate amount of ‘bricks’  each month the with the amount of money saved towards our house. Brick by brick, we would aggressively put back any money we could with that dream of purchasing a home.

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Our House Thermometer

 

And then one day, we decided it was time. With the advent of a second child, we knew the home we had rented nearly four years was no longer the right fit for us and it was time to take that step towards owning a home.

But here is where our adventure truly began. You see, 2 years ago, when our debt was no more, we made a decision that our credit line would be no more as well. We closed every single account. So when we went to apply for a house loan, we found that we had no credit score whatsoever. This came as no surprise to us. We (read: my husband) had done the research and knew full well that our only option in acquiring a loan for a home would have to come through a manual underwrite. A much more difficult, even more highly scrutinizing process. What did surprise us was the fact that no one did manual underwrites anymore. No one except Churchill Mortgage (cue commercial endorsement).

We connected with the local Churchill Mortgage company and began the daunting paperwork process and searched with hope for just the right house. After a few months of house hunting, we found ‘the one’ just waiting for us to put our finger print on it. And we made our bid. After a counter, we reached an agreement and locked in a price of $1,000 below market value and $5,000 below asking price (cue endorsement for an awesome realtor: Tonia Merlene).

I shan’t bore you with the logistics of our loan but the process has been grueling. Although we are less of a financial risk than most people with a credit score, the hoops and hurdles we have had to jump through have been many and in some instances down right ridiculous. But we will close on Tuesday. We are bringing to the table a down payment of 3.5% and yes we are paying most of our own closing costs. A bad deal some might say. But we don’t agree.  We will have less of a loan because of the money we are putting up front and given our track record will have this house paid off much sooner than the loan’s timeline.

Amidst all this saving, you might think we haven’t truly lived our lives these past five years. I would highly disagree. We have lived a very fruitful life. We’ve grown closer as a couple and family, made lifelong friendships, sacrificially given, saved for items we really wanted, and taken those much needed family vacations. Our vehicles are not brand new, much of our furniture is second hand and our new home is just over 20 years old.

But we are happy.

We are living well below our means and look forward to teaching our children the values of working hard, delayed gratification, cheerful giving and the love of family.

We are not keeping up with the Jones….and it feels great.

 

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Our New Home

One at a Time

I love lists. I love goals. I love crossing things off my list and announcing a goal met. But sometimes I get a little carried away with my lists and goals. Sometimes my lists get so long and my goals so lofty that I can’t cross anything off and another year passes and goals are not met.

And it’s not that I don’t have the greatest of intentions. Often I get so fired-up inspired and feel as if I can take on the world.  {Cue the Indiana Jones theme song Duh Duhduh Duh… Dudduh Duh… Duhduh duh duh…. Duhduh duh duh DUH!!}

And it’s not that I can’t do any one of the items on my list. It’s that I can’t do ALL of them at once. But I try to!

It goes down something like this:

I hear a speaker, read a book, wake up from an inspiring dream, have a brainstorming conversation with a good friend and the eyes begin to sparkle, the wheels begin to turn and the list begins with not one, not two, but 3 millions things to be accomplished by one person in an unreasonably short amount of time even for a super hero!

But I take it on because I can!

I’m going to:

  • Run 3 miles EVERYDAY
  • Blog 3 times a week
  • Volunteer at the local hospital every Friday
  • Learn to speak a foreign language in under a week
  • Menu plan for the entire year
  • Cook fresh food, from my garden. everyday of the week (3 meals a day)
  • Send everyone I know an encouraging letter by the end of the month.
  • Lose 10lbs by giving up coffee cold turkey
  • Publish my first book by the end of August
  • Write the enrichment curriculum for the entire year by the end of September

And the list and the aspirations go on and on

It’s not too bad at first. Day one of goal attaining is busy but the thrill of success is addictive. Day two, I’m a little tired from the day before but I’ve got the tiger by the tail! Let’s do this! By day 7, I’m worn out.  Goals are falling off the wagon right and left and I really have nothing to show for my effort but red eyes and a crushed spirit.

And I give up or postpone my lists and goals…until I hear another great speaker or read an inspiring book or…you get the picture.

But recently I had a “what if” moment.

What if I made my lists and goals just like always but then I narrowed them down to goals that I actually wanted to meet.

And what if I  was realistic in my goal setting instead of creating unrealistic timelines and expectations

And what if I took it one step further and only did one thing at a time.

Yep. What if I went after one and only one goal with reckless abandon until I could cross it off my list.

And then picked another goal that I went after with that same undivided passion as before.

I’ve played around with this a little bit. Thanks to an inspiring movement called Finish Year I made three simple goals for this year.

1. Tell Marshall and Dominic that I love them every day.

2. Write one blog post a week.

3. Mail one handwritten note per week.

Now this is a great movement and I love it but I bet you know what’s coming. Even with these three simple goals, I don’t meet all of them. Have I mailed any handwritten notes? Just one. So this goal although honorable has not happened…yet.

But with my new resolve to cross things off my list one thing at a time I think it’s about to start happening.

I do tell Marshall and Dominic every day how much I love them. Honestly this one comes so easily that there really wasn’t any effort required.

Blogging once a week. That has started to come more naturally as well. But it has taken time. And I’m not thoroughly convinced that I’ve got this one mastered. But…in a few weeks, after I’ve successfully blogged at least once weekly, I will view this goal as attained. I will also view it as habit {which ultimately is better than being crossed off of any list}

And I will move on to a handwritten note a week.

Now. A few thoughts.

Does this mean I won’t write any notes between now and when it becomes my priority goal? Not at all. I just won’t hang my head in shame if I don’t write one each week, either.

This also doesn’t mean that I won’t try to cut back on the caffeine or get outdoors for a run here and there or work on any other goals I have on my proverbial list. But again I won’t beat myself up over a goal unattained.

I’ll take my goals one at a time and work on them til I succeed. Until they are a part of me. And then I’ll move on to the next thing.

But I’ll take on each line item one at a time and be proud of my albeit short list of accomplishments. It may be short but it will be much better than a long list of the should have, would have, could haves of the past.

So I’ve shared my top three goals for this season. One is a habit. One is getting there and another is waiting to be tackled when the time is right.

If you made a list of priorities and goals, realistically narrowed them down, what would be the first thing that you would start working on?