Hey there! Hope all is well. For our hang out today, we are going to pick up where we left off. The last time we came together to talk about finances, I’d told you how we began our journey to become debt-free.
Remember, we started in our first home as a young couple with twin boys. Then we built a larger custom home further out from our families. We’d learned about the steps to get out of debt and started applying them. Not even a full year into living in the new home, we decided to sell it. However, the buyers did not want to pay our asking price. That’s understandable because we of all people know about negotiating. Unfortunately, their counteroffer was extremely low. I mean so low that anyone else probably would’ve felt offended and walked away from the deal. If we accepted their offer, it was going to set us so far back from the goal we had just set out to accomplish.
At that time in our lives, we had a small amount of debt besides the house. However, it was a seller’s market then. There were some comps in the neighborhood, not to mention so many other empty lots were available. They had a choice to pick another home or start with a blank slate, as we did, which would allow them to make all of their new construction decisions. Many buyers had come through, but they were the only family that continued to show interest. We were desperate and ready to move on to focus on our new goal. We decided we wouldn’t wait around hoping that someone else would appear to be interested, so we took the offer. We signed off an almost six-figure loss with a lump in our throats and pain in the pit of our stomachs.
We acquired a mortgage with no house to show for it. So many of our family members thought we had lost our minds. Some even suggested that we file for bankruptcy. Here we were, young adults with three children and nowhere to call home. Ejuan and I both are loyal and committed people that believe in keeping our word. Initially, when we would take the time to respond to others about our decision, we explained that we signed the contract requesting the house loan, which means we would pay the money back. Just because we decided to sell early and sell much lower than we purchased did not mean we would not honor that promise.
During this time, my in-laws were nearing the end of building a new house, and they were preparing to move from the home where my husband grew up. They agreed to allow us to stay with them for a couple of months until their new place was ready. We quickly became a full house with my family, his parents, and his younger sister. With everything but the new kitchen sink stored inside for the future home, we were all packed in there like a can of sardines. Ejuan and I created a plan for how we would overcome this. We set a goal date that we would become debt-free, and we began attacking the mountain of debt we’d created. We had decided from that point moving forward that we would NEVER have another loan for anything if it were in our power to do so.
We decided we would stay at his parent’s house until our debt was paid off, and we had saved at least $100k to purchase our next home. We remained there for three years before I realized I wanted a space to personalize and make my own. We had paid a significant amount of the debt off at that time. Therefore, we broke our rule of not having another loan and decided we would choose an affordable place, but pay it off much quicker than the average person. We went on the hunt for our new location. We saw house after house, but could not find everything we needed in one place. One of the last houses our realtor took us to was closer to what we felt we needed. Everyone would have their own rooms, and it was very spacious. Unfortunately, there were a few problems that weren’t fixable.
The backyard was small, and it needed some TLC from the interior to the exterior. Although I wasn’t into much home interior decorating at the time, I knew we could paint and touch up everything, and it would be fine. Plus, Ejuan was pretty handy, so he could change out all of the light fixtures and handle other upgrades we wanted to make. However, I could not get over how small the backyard was. As we sat down to discuss our options, this issue kept coming up. Our first home had a tiny yard, and then we’d upgraded to an acre. Although the yard at my in-laws wasn’t the largest, I knew moving forward that I wanted plenty of space for the boys to be able to run around and play where I would feel comfortable watching them out of a nearby window. Our sons were younger when we had the acre, and we didn’t have a gate around our property, so I would not let them go outside unless one of us could be out with them. That being said, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time outdoors. Ejuan reminded me of that and told me not to let the yard be the reason we didn’t jump on the deal. He convinced me, so we chose to move forward in the buying process.
Do you want to hear something funny? Not only had the previous owner PAID CASH for this house, but he was ready to move his family to another state, so he didn’t want to go through a long process of back and forth negotiations. He told Ejuan to give him a number, Ejuan did, and the seller immediately accepted. The funniest part is, it’s like we were coming full circle. We were planning to purchase the home and quickly pay off the mortgage and live in a “paid for” house just like the current resident, and the same way we gave away our custom home, the owner, was giving away this house to us. It reminded me about the passage in the Bible that talks about being restored. Paraphrased from Joel 2:25-26 (NIV), it states, “The Lord says, I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts. Never again will my people be disgraced.” Our season was coming!
We were both ready and committed to our new plan. Since we’d decided to purchase our home earlier than initially planned, the debt-free date had understandably changed. A little over a year and a half living at our current house, we paid off the unsecured loan we’d gotten after we sold the custom home. Then, just about every dollar we’d been paying on that loan was redirected towards paying off our mortgage. We did take some of the payment and spread it out for other desires. For example, we added more to our grocery budget, the kids’ needs (clothes, shoes, and other items), and we gave ourselves more allowance and splurge money.
Can I be totally honest with you here? Once that loan payment freed up money, I was feeling plentiful. Although we’d made these promises and declarations, my eyes lit up with the amount of cash we had available. I wanted to live more, especially after years of sacrificing and doing little to nothing. However, I knew our end goal, so I had to settle down, regain focus, and press forward. One of those biggest goals, other than being debt-free, was me being able to leave the corporate world to come home and be a stay-at-home mom.
I will admit it seemed to get harder and harder to maintain this lifestyle. I was doing the work, being a great partner, not swiping the debit card any time I wanted something, and I showed up and was interactive during our budget meetings (as much as they bored me and still do today). While I knew completing these steps would get me closer to being home, living in the moment was also important to me. I wanted to be able to eat out more, especially on the weekends, and spend more on our family entertainment. I mean, I’m HUMAN!
At times, it became so frustrating to continue living this way that I would entertain getting credit again. Knowing everything we’d been through and the commitment we’d made, but I wanted to do things and make additional purchases. Yea, I’d sit next to my husband every month and plan and agree where our money was going, but I didn’t entirely agree. My heart knew what was best for us, but I WANTED STUFF! When I became frustrated, I would act out. Seriously! I was still young, inexperienced, and again, I’m human. I would often make threats like I was going to do something against our plans so that Ejuan would lighten up, but I never actually planned to see anything through. I wanted to live some now and also prepare for later. It was one of the things I’ve often preached to Ejuan. I used the term NOW AND LATER. I explained while I didn’t want to be ignorant with our money and spend everything we had today, I also did not want to ignore living life and store all of our money away for later. I knew we should be able to come to a happy medium. However, as I stated before, I didn’t always think positively, and sometimes I would allow the frustration to get the best of me.
One time, in particular, I mentioned that I wanted to upgrade to a front load washer and dryer. Of course, it wasn’t a need, nor was it a part of any budget. Because there was no compromise to at least set a plan for making the purchase, I decided to do it on my own. I even stupidly told myself that since I was only putting the appliances in my name that WE wouldn’t be getting back into debt. LISTEN! This is what we do to justify our actions. We start talking stupid and proclaiming how much we deserve this or that. I’m not saying we haven’t earned the right to enjoy life, even God says he wants us to live life more abundantly, but we have to be wise in how we go about doing so, especially when it comes to our money.
I purchased the appliances and had it scheduled to deliver on a day I knew I would be home, and Ejuan would be at work. You know that saying ‘it’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission? Well, that was my attitude about this situation. No, I don’t have to ask my husband for permission, but as a team, we’d agreed to this lifestyle, so I knew I was not in alignment by making this decision. Therefore, I was hoping to have them both in place, and the old washer and dryer be taken away on the delivery company’s truck before Ejuan made it home. They scheduled me for an all-day appointment, you know how that goes, and unfortunately, it appears that I was their LAST delivery of the day. The truck was parked outside of our home. The guys had just placed the new washer and dryer and were taking the old washer back to their vehicle. They were loading it in when Ejuan turned the corner. I was concerned because I knew he’d be unhappy with the decision, and I figured it would be easier to deal with everything had he come in after the fact versus watching it all happen before his eyes.
Ejuan became something I hadn’t seen. He was PISSED to the point that he almost took his irritation out on the delivery guys. He came and started asking where they were taking his machine. Then he told them to leave it in the garage and go back to the truck to get his dryer also. I was so embarrassed, but I had to remind him that they were only doing their job. The decision to purchase new appliances and have the old hauled away was mine, not theirs. He calmed down at that moment and allowed the guys to finish what they were doing. Of course, when they left, he was ready to discuss the situation. I told him exactly how I felt about our lifestyle and how I decided to purchase the items anyway. He took some time to process how everything went down, and soon after understanding my point, he came to me with an altered plan. We talked about how we would quickly pay the debt for the appliances and then get back to our original objective. Side note, I still have that washer and dryer, and I love them! (inserts wink)
As time went on, I would still have my bouts of frustration because I wanted us to spend more than we were investing and saving. Although I knew that the sooner we reached our goal, the quicker I could leave my job, but that didn’t completely take away my desire to have and do other things. It’s often a challenge to visualize our future, but it’s rather easy to live in the moment. While I didn’t want to ignore the future, I still wanted to spend extra money.
In moments like these, I would have to reference our beginning stages to help get us back to the basics and also help myself when I felt discouraged. I would take the time to ponder on the sacrifices we’ve made and think about the financial goals we’d already met. As much as I wasn’t into the conferences before, I started attending some, and I also began listening to Dave on air again. These acts helped keep me on track when I felt like I could not do this anymore. Every time I heard a person or family talk about the insane amount of debt they’ve racked up or a success story of how they’ve become debt-free, I’d give thanks. Of course, I cried too. (If you don’t know me by now, you never will.) This time I cried tears of joy for the families and also for my family. We were now on the same path to build financial wealth. I even cried tears of happiness for those that had paid off their mortgage, and then there was also the sad feeling of knowing we had a while to go before we would get there.
We continued to stay on course and would still take our yearly family and wedding anniversary trips. We’d also toss in a couple of day trips or mini getaways every quarter for just the two of us. We were very cost-conscious and frugal about where we went and what we did on each visit. There were always low-cost or free museums and other excursions available wherever we vacationed. Ejuan was sure to find those activities before booking anything. No matter what area we chose, we always enjoyed ourselves on a strict budget, and we have pictures and memories to last us a lifetime.
One day during our lunch (sometimes we worked in the same building or across the skywalk from one another), we had a meeting about where we were. I had come up with some ideas to kick things into high gear. I found some things that we could cut back on for a limited time that would also free up more income. Ejuan was both impressed and ready to take on the challenge with me. Usually, he was the one drilling our goal dates; however, I took on that role this time. I gave it a hashtag #Operation18. I would say this when talking to him or the kids, and I also used it whenever I made a post on social media about our journey. The point was to have our mortgage paid off before or by the end of 2018, and I would resign from my job immediately following the payoff.
At this stage, we became gazelle intense. We took it back to the beginning days before we became debt-free. We shut down life as we knew it. There were small limits on the gifts we purchased for ourselves and our kids, and we participated in little to no events that cost. We also altered our usual family trip. We opted for a weekend at our family/friend’s ranch and only had to pay for the groceries that we bought and live bait to fish in the pond. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on a small budget there, just as we would have enjoyed time in some other state sightseeing.
As the year was coming to a close, I watched our account like a hawk. Every time I’d see that total dropping, I would have a private party. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and I was barely able to contain myself. I knew our income was about to change significantly, but I was more looking forward to a new place of peace and opportunity that was coming. I called my mom and asked to borrow her “special dress” because this was a momentous occasion. I told my family that I wanted everyone to dress up on the day we walked into the bank to make our final payment. The closer we got to the final payment, our oldest twin son, Elvon, said he would put in the last $100.
The day came, and we all put on our Sunday’s best and waltzed into Wells Fargo with so much pride. When the guy asked us what he could assist with, we were so proud to say, “We are here to make the final payment on our mortgage!” We took selfies and even asked the teller to snap a few shots for us. That was one of the greatest moments of my life! Also, seeing my firstborn hand in $100 to help us finish, put the icing on the cake! It was another reminder to me that our labor and our teachings have not been in vain. They are getting it, and they will have greater life experiences because of it.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this…We chose to rearrange the baby steps because we knew we were going to make a drastic change in our income. However, if you wish to follow the same method, I suggest you stay on course as best as possible or use the plan that works best for you. Now that we have completed this journey, the BEST IS YET TO COME! You can win with your money too, but you have to start telling it what to do. Create a plan, make a budget, and stick to it. When it gets rough, remember your end goal. Consistency will lead you on the path to success. If nothing else I’ve said sticks with you, try to remember the following words that I will forever remember from Dave Ramsey. LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE SO LATER YOU CAN LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE. Write it down, memorize it, quote it, and use it as your daily inspiration. Dissect it and make it make sense to you. If you stop buying everything on credit, sacrifice today, save and invest (live like no one else), you can enjoy a more stress-free, abundant and financially healthy life in the future (so later you can live like no one else)!
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