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I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t think that the finance side of this blog was what was going to be what would draw people in. I mean, I love finances and all discussions about money, so much so that I wanted to start a blog about it (among other things), but was surprised at the number of comments I got about similar feelings! So hooray! Let’s talk money!
First of all, you might be wondering what gives us the right to talk about money? Actually nothing. Well, nothing except a willingness to share. I’m not an expert, neither is Philip. But we have brains in our heads and are trying to learn all we can and to continue to make choices that will propel us to financial success in the future. We’ve made some really good decisions and some really not great ones. We are basically open books about the subject, so if there is ever anything specific that you’d like to know, feel free to ask! The main reason we even wanted to blog about it, is because we feel like there is SO MUCH HELPFUL INFORMATION out there of which we hadn’t even scratched the surface ourselves. Sure, we paid our bills and stayed out of debt and contributed to Philip’s 401K, but that was about as much as we did.
Growing up, both of us had parents that taught us to WORK and WORK HARD. So that’s what we did. We both worked all through high school and into college, saving as much as we could while living at home. Then when we got married, we both continued to work full time and go to school full time. When we both stopped working to go to hygiene and pharmacy school, we were living on student loans and got reeeeeeeally good at being poor. And then when I graduated in 2009, we basically kept our spending the same (aka, below the poverty level) with just a few upgrades, like Kirkland brand shampoo and conditioner instead of Suave, because THAT is my definition of fancy. We were able to save like crazy that year, and then when Philip graduated in 2010, we immediately started house hunting. We found our house, and while it was a little more tan and stucco-y than I had hoped for, things fell into place and we were able to buy what could easily be our forever home and closed on it on my 26th birthday. Happy birthday to me!
We moved in in November and while we knew what our mortgage payment would be, it was a little different for it to show up on a bill with your name on it for the first time. Yowza! And then in February, all of Philip’s student loans came out of deferment, and our MINIMUM payment on all of his loans was over $2200 a month. And that’s when I choked and almost died because HOW IN THE WORLD DO ADULTS AFFORD ANYTHING??? In the course of about three months, our expenses quadrupled. It wasn’t fun. So what did we do? We worked. And worked hard.
I had read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey before starting hygiene school. It completely changed my way of looking at money. I had never even considered the fact that car payments weren’t a permanent fixture in personal finance or thought twice about how to pay down debt. So once we hit February of 2011, and I saw all of the zeros at the end of the amounts that we owed, you better believe I strapped on the my snow bibs and we started our debt snowball. I listed our debts, smallest to largest, on our trusty little white board and we started chipping away at it.
During that time, we were both working 5-6 days a week, trying to bring in as much as possible to throw at our loans as if our hair was on fire. It made us super tired and cranky, but it made a dent and that dent was super encouraging. We slowed down a bit when Maren was born, but realized that if we ever wanted to be able to have more freedom to spend time at home with our kids, we needed to be done with this. And then in November of 2015, we paid our last payment on the student loans. I had systematically been reducing the amounts owed on each loan on that little white board, and when I erased the last loan and was left with just mortgages, I did the math. We had paid off TWO HUNDRED THIRTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Ta-freaking-da! And that’s the day that I decided I was an expert on money. 🙂 (I know I said I wasn’t earlier, but this gives me a smidge of street cred, right?)
From there, Philip says we went on autopilot, and to an extent, he’s right. But we also bought a really really expensive baby (good thing he’s seriously the cutest), we bought and paid cash for two cars, we redid our pool, bought another baby (a little less expensive, but still equally cute), and then last year, we had to redo our roof, which turned into the most expensive can of worms to ever exist, and resulted in an entire exterior renovation on our home. So I would say that our money has still been well spent, but it has lacked direction. Especially when trying to plan for the long term.
When I was on maternity leave after having Jade, I had endless amounts of time available to listen to podcasts, so I searched for podcasts on finances. I started listening to a couple and got some really good tips and advice, as well as in introduction to the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) but nothing that seemed really attainable for us at that time. Then I found the ChooseFI podcast, which spoke directly to me, do you know why? One of the hosts of the show is a pharmacist, who semi-hated his job in a retail pharmacy, had a crap ton of student loan debt, and wanted out. Wait, why does this seem familiar? 🙂 I remember telling Philip about it, but it wasn’t until I got him listening to the podcast months later that things started to change. I felt like I was good at being frugal with our spending, but retirement accounts were out of my league. Luckily, that is the part that Philip wanted to jump all in on, so he was a rockstar at getting things maxed out, and is the brains behind our investing.
And now we are here! We’ve gone down this Financial Independence rabbit hole and are figuring out how to best be FI-ish. We realize that if we were super extreme we could retire pretty early, much like a lot of the rockstars in the FIRE community already have, but also need to not hate every second of life up until we are able to pull that trigger. We are trying to find ways to add value to our lives and make choices with more intention. We recognize the benefits of side hustles and extra income, but also want to enjoy our kids while they are little and while they still look forward to our Family Fun Days. SIGHHHHHHH, there are just so many things to think about in regards to finances and family and futures.
So I guess that’s a big part of this blog. We are wanting to share what choices we have made, what is working, what hasn’t. We want to encourage and help others get out of debt, manage their budget, find ways to save, learn how to invest, and overall, get in better financial shape.