Financial freedom is a dream most people have but many are unable to realize. Have you sat down and calculated how much of your money is wasted on interest for that debt? It can add up to hundreds of thousands over a life time, and certainly over the course of a 30 year mortgage. That can be sickening. What’s even worse is that money going to interest could be going to investments creating greater wealth. Regardless of how much debt you have accrued, getting rid of it is important.
I’m writing this post to tell you our story. How a couple of 32 year olds were able to pay off their house and cars and become completely debt free. When I tell people this, I’m met with shock and then questions, “Well how did you do it?” Looking back, it wasn’t as hard as you may think it is. We followed a few simple rules. The first being the most important one, spend less than you make – like way less. Start with the big ticket items like your house and car. It’s amazing what you can go without and not feel deprived at all. Don’t try to keep up with your neighbors or friends. Life isn’t a competition. Like David Ramsey says “ Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.”
We decided to buy a house when we were 22 years old. We were getting married soon and wanted to get out of our small apartment. The walls were very thin wall and our neighbor vacuumed EVERY morning before work! I hated apartment living and wanted my space.
When we went to get pre-approved for a loan we were shocked at how much they were willing to give us. Of course this was at the hight of the housing market in 2004-5. They were approving all kinds of crazy loans that would later get people in trouble. But we knew better than that, so we started looking for houses way below our max budget.
It didn’t take long to settle on the house with the big back yard 80k below our max. Did I love the house? Not really. The layout was not ideal and it needed lots of updates, but the location was perfect and it’s all about location right?
Fast forward several years, 2 kids and a dog later and I was ready to pull my hair out over the house. The layout that was not ideal was starting to become more of a problem, and the updates had not been done yet. I was ready to move. The problem was now the market. The housing bubble had burst and houses sat on the market for years before they were sold. We would never be able to sell our house or even get close to what we paid for it. So moving was out of the question.
Not only did the market crash but people were losing their jobs left and right. I always felt that my job was secure but Randy’s was another story. Like everyone in the country we cut back our spending and built up our savings a little more just in case. After doing this for awhile we decided to go over our finances to see where we were at. We had a pretty good emergency stash so we were feeling a little more confident now. We realized that we could comfortably pay double our mortgage. If we were comfortably paying double, what if we could pay even more and have the house paid for sooner? Each month we sent in a little more to see what we were comfortable with, and each month we pushed our limit a little more.
Now this didn’t come without sacrifices, but we knew it would be worth it in the end. We knew by making these sacrifices early on when our kids were young and their needs were simple we wouldn’t have to sacrifice later.
These are the 12 steps we took to pay off our house in 10 years.
#1 Buy a house well below what you can comfortably afford. We didn’t want to be house poor. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do the things we love if we had maxed out our mortgage every month.
#2 Stay in your starter home and made the best of it. Having a smaller house has it’s advantages. There is less to clean and the energy bills are lower making your carbon footprint is lower.
#3 Do most of the renovations yourselves. We had help with the first bathroom from a contractor friend, and the rest we tackled ourselves with the exception of drywall. It helps that Randy is so handy.
#4 Everything is done DIY. From home improvements to hair cuts, we learned it all from YouTube and saved thousands over the years. Cut back on eating out. I make most meals at home. We eat out once or twice on the weekends and that is it. When you do eat out order water. 2-3 dollars on each drink really adds up.
#5 Take advantage of free activities on the weekends. Hiking is always free and one of my favorite things to do to unwind. We also took advantage of the free community events such as concerts in the park and festivals.
#6 Don’t spoil the kids. I rarely buy the kids toys when it isn’t their birthday or Christmas. They just don’t need all that stuff and it will only clutter the house. Besides this, I can alway count on their grandparents to spoil them.
#7 Take advantage of the library. I can’t remember the last time we went to the movies. For a family of four to see a movie on non matinee prices it’s at least $50! Have movie night in your home with homemade snacks and relax in comfort as you save money.
#8 Go 1 year without buying yourself anything. This is a true test of self sacrifice that can add up substantially. Go one year without buying any clothes or shoes. Use what you have in your closet and mix pieces to create different outfits when needed. If you need a certain item, borrow it from a friend or family member before spending the money.
#9 Make your own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. A gallon of white vinegar and baking soda is less than $4 and can be used to clean the whole house and will last months. I also made a 5 gallon bucket of my own laundry detergent for less than $5 that lasted 6 months.
#10 Never pay retail. There are certain times of the year where you can save 50-70% off retail. Take advantage of end of the season sales and store coupons.
#11 Buy used. Kids grow so fast and it can feel like you are buying a new wardrobe and shoes for them every few months. Shop second hand stores and garage sales when you can. You will be amazed at the deals you will find.
#12 Use coupons and money saving apps. I’m able to save about 20% off my groceries every week just using coupons. I save my receipts and scan my groceries with money saving apps like Ibotta for additional savings.
Some financial experts will tell you that it isn’t a good idea to pay off your house too soon. You lose your tax deduction and ironically your credit score will go down. But I’m here to tell you that not having that burden and feeling truly secure with our finances is so much greater. A weight has been lifted and we can focus on the things that make us happy. To compensate for losing the tax deduction we have increased our contribution to our 401k which decreases our taxable income and only insures that our future will be more secure. By paying our house off 20 years early on a 30 year loan we were able to save approximately $145,000 on interest. No tax deduction is worth that much.
So tell me, what are some ways you save money?