How We Paid Off Our Debt, Twice: Guest Post on Financial Pilgrimage

When I saw a note on a forum about a new series featuring young families getting out of debt, I smiled. Our family has definitely achieved the former, but I don’t think we qualify for the latter at this point. After all, I’m almost 40, Mr. ThreeYear is a ripe old 45, and our kids are no longer so young. At 11 and 8, they definitely qualify for the middle-elementary category.

However, I think our story has a lot to teach young families with debt to pay off. After all, we started our debt payoff in a typical fashion, by following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. But we took more debt on, after we’d paid off our original debt, learned how to pay off debt twice, and have somehow still managed to save a large net worth and reach our goals of location independence.

Financial Pilgrimage is a blog about a young family who is also in the process of paying off their debt, including their mortgage. They focus on advice for young families, those who are just getting started, have young kids, or both.

Here’s our Debt Payoff Story (times two):

1) Start by telling us about yourself. Please include any details you feel comfortable sharing about your family, job situation, income level, and amount of debt paid.

I’m Laurie and I’ll start by saying that my family is probably a few years past the “young” stage. I’m 39, my husband is 45, and our boys are now 11 and 8. When we started our debt repayment journey, though, we only had one son who was about 18 months old.

Don’t worry, it didn’t take us ten years to pay off all our debt! But we had to learn some lessons twice, so I thought our story would be a great case study for young families.

When we started our debt repayment journey, my husband worked for a Fortune 50 company in marketing, I had just become a stay-at-home mom, and we were adjusting to life as new parents.

It was July 4th, 2008, and my husband had been laid off six months before. It was the middle of the housing crisis, and his company had been hit hard. They laid off thousands of employees.

At first, we were frantic—he’d received a 3-month severance, but what would we do after that? After all, I was no longer working, we had a mortgage, and we now had a young son to support.

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Hate Your Job? Don’t Worry; You’re Not Wasting Your Time

Yesterday Paula Pant posted a quote on Instagram:

Okay, let’s analyze this one for a minute.

I know that this could have easily been a throwaway quote designed to inspire people to find their dream jobs.

But this quote bothered me in a real and visceral way.

Here’s why.

Let’s say you’re currently in a job you hate. According to this little pearl of wisdom, your life right now has no value. You are doing absolutely nothing of worth. There is nothing that you can glean from this job to help you with the rest of your life.

I call bull on that.

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Curbside Composting: Guest Post on Tread Lightly, Retire Early

I don’t talk a lot about environmental matters on this blog, but getting better with money has definitely made me think more about making waste, and my family’s impact on the earth over the years.

Angela from Tread Lightly, Retire Early offered to share our story about bringing curbside compost to our town in New Hampshire and I thought other people would want to hear how we got it set up.

Curbside compost is a service that picks up your leftover food scraps and composts them for you in an industrial facility, then brings compost back to you. It was great for my family because we could compost all of our food scraps, even meat, without worrying about bears, or composting during the winter.

Angela’s blog focuses on ways you can lessen your impact on the planet and create financial independence. Check out her personal finance roundups on Wednesdays and her Frugal Five features on Fridays, in addition to posts about the intersection of the environment and finances.

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Are You the 1%?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the dumb luck of being born in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It reminded me of this post, which is one of my favorites. Every once in a while, I find it really helpful to go drone-like and fly up above my privileged circumstances to reflect on how fortunate I and my family really are. Videos like the one below help me to take a few minutes to put things in perspective. 

Last night, my son asked me to replay a video I’d shown him last year.  It’s called If the World Were 100 People. Maybe you’ve seen it. One of my professors in my Master’s course introduced me to the video last Spring.

If you’ve got two and a half minutes, it’s a great watch.

The company that developed the video, GOOD Magazine, used research from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook to give us an idea of what our world would look like if its almost 7.5 billion inhabitants were reduced to a mere 100 people. 100 is a number we can wrap our brains around fairly easily. We all know 100 people. We’re probably friends with 100 people. Continue reading “Are You the 1%?”

How We Stacked Financial Wins to Grow Our Net Worth

Ten years ago, in 2009, we had just started getting paying off our $38,000 in debt and had very little savings to speak of. We had a 30-year home mortgage on our house in Atlanta, and because we’d only put 5% down and the market tanked so bad, we had negative equity in it.

I thought we’d never get our debt paid off, but we finally did, in December of 2009. For awhile, we were only focused on building up an emergency fund, and didn’t think about our net worth at all.

But once we found the FIRE community and began to learn more about personal finance, we wanted to grow our net worth and become financially free.

Here’s what we did to stack our financial wins and grow our net worth to the level it is now.

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February Net Worth Update

Happy March! We’re (slowly) entering my favorite time of year in the South, Spring. As we drove home yesterday, I noticed that there were tons of blooms on trees and our street (shown in the picture) is blooming.

We’re still getting lots of rain, but there are many sunny days interspersed with the drizzle, at least enough to keep me hopeful that better weather is on the way!

Our Progress

Like many others in the personal finance community, we enjoyed a net worth gain this month. We’re now firmly in the 50%+ camp, meaning that since we started this experiment, we’ve increased our net worth by over 50%. Only 50% more to go this year! I joke, because that’s a lot of net worth to add in a year at our net worth level. Nevertheless, we will keep saving and investing to see how much we can save up in 2019.

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How to Run Your Own Race

“Stay in your own lane.” I repeat this quote to myself often these days, as a reminder to keep my proverbial head down and focus on my own life, rather than rubbernecking somebody else’s. While a lot has changed in the two years since I first published this post, the veracity of living your own life remains the same. 

“To be beautiful means to be yourself.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

About three years ago, I was talking to a friend about training for a half marathon. “I would really love to finally run a sub-two (13.1 miles in under 2 hours),” I told him, “like [our other running friends.] But I’m just so slow!” “You have to run your own race,” he told me.

Those words have stuck with me, probably because I struggle mightily with comparisons. I know, intellectually, that comparing yourself to others is the root of poor self-esteem. We all start at different places in life, and that if we compare one part of our life with someone else’s, we should compare every part of our life.
I know this. And yet… Continue reading “How to Run Your Own Race”

What I Learned from No-Spend February

February is a depressing month. It seems to be that way every year for me. It’s the middle of winter. Even though we now live in North Carolina, and we no longer have a snow-covered backyard, the days are gray and largely rain-filled. Though some shoot push up through pinestraw-filled beds, Spring feels far away.

Our daily routine, which I have a hard time with on good days, feels unbearably heavy. (And as I write these lines I roll my eyes at myself, because, geesh, my life is so so good in the giant cosmical scheme of things. But feelings! They’re there for the feeling, right?).

On top of that, I added a No-Spend Challenge. Here were the rules of the challenge:

The Rules

  1. It started February 4th, because the weekend previous my parents visited and we did a lot of spending to celebrate family birthdays.
  2. It was for me only. Mr. ThreeYear traveled a ton this month and didn’t need or want to participate in the challenge. Same with the little guys.
  3. I spent on: groceries, gas, mortgage, bills.
  4. I did NOT spend money on: eating out, clothes, haircuts, home maintenance, entertainment, or pet treats for Lucy.
  5. Exceptions: I made an exception for a dinner we had planned with our neighbors, but we ended up pushing the dinner to March, so it didn’t apply.
I've never successfully completed a No Spend Month, until now. Here's what I learned from my No Spend February challenge. #nospendfebruary #nospendmonth #nospend #frugalfebruary #nobuymonth #debtfree #financialindependence
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How We Grew Our Emergency Fund

When our family started to get out of debt, we followed Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. Step 1 was to put aside $1000, as quickly as possible, for any big bills that might come your way.

Because Mr. ThreeYear had recently been laid off, and had received a three-month severance, we still had a little extra money in our bank account for just this purpose.

However, after we paid off our $38,000 of consumer debt, our next step was saving a larger emergency fund, one that could cover 3-6 months of our basic expenses were either of us unable to work.

Unfortunately, saving a larger emergency fund wasn’t nearly as easy as saving that first $1000.

It took us awhile (years, I’m afraid to say), and our methods were a bit unorthodox, but in the end, we had saved enough to pay our basic expenses for four months (we decided we needed an emergency fund that was on the smaller side, since Mr. ThreeYear works in a company with a no-layoff policy and the rest of our financial situation is quite stable).

Here’s how we did it.

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Changing Your Kids’ Money Emotions

This week, I was inspired by a Smart Money Mamas Instagram post to talk about a subject that’s been on my mind lately–our kids’ money emotions.

Mr. ThreeYear is traveling in Brazil this week, and last night he called me to tell me that he saw a little boy on a street in São Paulo, selling candy. The little boy apparently looked just like Little ThreeYear, down to the skinny legs.

We talked about how grateful we are for not only the fact that our kids don’t need to work to help us earn money, but also that they don’t have any money worries.

While I grew up in an affluent home and can relate to that feeling, Mr. ThreeYear did not. Money was a constant source of anxiety, tension, and strain for him. There was never enough.

Through saving, investing, and earning more in his job, Mr. ThreeYear has completely changed his own children’s money emotions.

Our boys feel fairly empowered when it comes to money, and if they need extra money, they think of ways to get it (unfortunately, lately that has become thinking up ways to convince Grandma and Grandpa to give it to them). We feel pretty positive that they now equate “getting money” with “work” of some kind or another (even if it’s the “work” of manipulating their grandparents).

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