Living Debt Free (House and Everything)

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One year ago this week we bought our first house for cash! This was a huge goal that Adam and I had our sights set on for some time, we finally made it happen last May.

I had owned 2 homes prior to the one we’re currently living in. Both had 30 year mortgages, both came with hefty monthly payments.

This one is different.

The first home I purchased was in 1999. I was twenty years old and it was an inexpensive one bedroom condo. I figured having a mortgage made more sense than renting (something society tells us all the time) and to my surprise a bank was willing to lend a twenty year old enough money to buy a house, so I went for it! I kept it for about 3 years and the day I put it on the market I got several offers and ultimately sold it for more than the asking price.

That’s how things were back then.

The second house I bought was with Adam in 2005. It was a tiny old home on a tiny lot, but it had character and we loved it. We thought we did everything right with that house, we didn’t.

The bank lent us the money, but we didn’t put very much, if anything down. We had a high interest second mortgage that ballooned after 12 years. We never imagined staying more than a few years anyway. There was flood insurance that went through the roof after hurricane Sandy (where are my NJ people at!), and an underground oil tank which we also had to pay a monthly insurance payment on that kept going up and up. Many little things added up to make this dream house a nightmare after not too long.

After a while we decided it was time to sell and move on to something bigger. We wanted to have a family and it was time for more space. The problem was, it was 2008 and I’m sure you remember what happened to the housing market and the economy in 2008.

We were stuck.

The value of our home rapidly declined and we soon came to a position that so many other America’s, maybe even you, faced at that time… we owed more than our home was worth.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to sell it, we finally had to let it go. We were moving out of state for my work and there were no other options left. In 2014 (3 kids later) we left our house with nothing to show for it, except one very valuable thing - knowledge.

We learned so much through that experience. It was that horrible experience and those feelings of helplessness that propelled us down a new path.

I wanted to learn everything I could about personal finance and wealthy management. I read nearly a dozen books on the topic and became obsessed with learning how to do things differently. We started a journey to become debt free and never borrow money again, for anything. Even a house.

We began to manifest the life we really wanted. Most importantly we created a plan. It took about 16 months to pay off all of our debt, we owed $40,000 in car loans and old medical bills. After that we began to save for a house. Buying a house for cash had become a huge goal of ours, actually it was a slight obsession.

We didn’t have tons of money, but after a couple years of renting and saving we started to look for inexpensive homes that would need a lot of fixing up. Our price range wasn’t huge, we had to be cautious because in addition to buying a house, we knew we needed cash to renovate whatever we bought.

We looked in Maine, Vermont, Virginia and North Carolina, I know those states may sound odd all together, but we had a connection to each of those areas and liked them all very much for different reasons.

It took over a year of looking, but we finally found a place in Maine that met most of our needs. So we did it! We bought our first house for cash!

That was one year ago and I’ve learned so much in the past 12 months as a result of living debt free (house and everything). Believe me, if we could do this, you could too. There is nothing special about us, there was no magic trick to making this work. We didn’t have wealthy family members to bank roll our dreams. We just figured out a budget, adopted a new mindset, and continued to work for what we wanted.

Here are 5 important things I’ve learned (the good and the bad) since getting completely debt free…

When you have no debt, rent, or mortgage you have money… lots of it.

I was shocked to see how quickly the bank account grows when there is so little going out. I obviously could do the math, but to actually see it building up was surprising nonetheless.

The amazing news, is that this is true no matter how much you earn!

Housing is one of the most costly things people spend their money on. Americans spend 36% of their monthly income on housing. Plus did you know that the average car payment in America is $523 per month, and it lasts for 68 months! Can you imagine having all that money going directly into your bank account each month, it truly is life changing.

Regardless of how much you make, keeping all of it for yourself is epic.


The feeling of freedom rocks your world and your career.

When you have nothing hanging over your head your work takes on a different purpose.

Work no longer is about earning enough to survive, because let’s face it, if you have absolutely no debt and an emergency fund saved, then the simplest of job, making minimal money would be enough to put food on your table, pay utility bills and basic needs. Just knowing that brings a feeling of ease. (Deep sigh of relief anyone!?)

Living completely debt free allows you to look at your work differently, it allows you the opportunity to try a new career path if you have been wanting to. You can take a more entry level position in a totally different field if you should choose. You can start that business you were considering, you can stop working the over time or second job, you can take the summers off.

Whatever it is you’ve been wishing or wanting to do, having zero payments in the world allows you a sense of freedom to go for it.


It’s difficult to talk about money.

I’ve found talking about money to be extremely challenging.

When we started on this journey in 2014 it was tough to tell people that we were going completely debt free and saving to buy a house for cash. I felt like some people would laugh at us, some people didn’t believe that we could do it, some people didn’t understand why we would even want to. And when we finally made it to our goal, some people were unimpressed with what they perceived to be a small budget for an old run down house!

The part that’s been the most challenging for me, is that some people have thought that talking about our journey of becoming debt free is somehow a judgement on them. That we were possibly throwing it in their faces (whatever “it” is) or that we’re judging their journey or decisions. This couldn’t be further from my intention.

Talking about money is difficult because it's a sore subject for many people. I’m still learning how to share our journey with others in way that is helpful, motivating, and inspiring to them. It’s not easy!

We have family members and friends that have been energized by our journey and have found their own path to living debt free, pursuing career goals that excite them, wanting to thrive, and enjoying new found freedom with a change in mindset and lifestyle.

Certainly many of my clients have benefited from the things I’ve shared with them as I speak more on the topic of money, and how it intersects so closely with career and family.

I’m sure there have been many times that things have come out wrong, words were perceived with a different meaning than originally intended, and someone didn’t really care about what I was sharing.

Have you heard this saying… “Some people won’t get you. Those aren’t your people.”


Mindset is everything.

Getting my husband on board with this debt free living program was a little slow at first. I can’t blame him, I have a high level of curiosity. I like testing out new things, new ideas, new ways of living. I’m a hummingbird in life after all - cross pollinating the world with a multitude of experiences and pursuits! While Adam’s always supportive, it makes sense that he was questioning the staying power of this new plan!

This was not a curiosity I was exploring on a whim, I was in this for the long haul and adopting the right mindset allowed both myself and Adam to get on board quickly.

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” That single quote has guided us through many things in life.

Do you believe that you can create the life of your dreams? Do you think it’s possible to do something that seems challenging or difficult at first glance? If you think you can, you can. If you can see it, you can be it. These saying aren’t repeated all the time for no reason.

People overcome insurmountable odds when they get their mindset right and refuse to stop seeking and discovering until what they want is realized. Have you heard of miracles?

Well, getting debt free, buying a house for cash, and pursuing a career that’s meaningful to you is no miracle. But it does require the right mindset. It requires belief and knowing that it’s possible - because it is.


It takes sacrifice.

We’re living in a world of instant gratification. We want it now.

In fact, I’d like a new car right now, I’m driving a 2009 Ford FLEX, with a crack in the windshield and a few dings and dents along the side. Could I buy a new car, sure. But will I, nope. Not for another year or two. Why? Because I am saving for the right vehicle, I intent to pay cash of course, and because the Shaggin Wagon (as we affectionately refer to her) is totally fine! She gets me from point A to point B, she’s safe, roomy and comfortable. Good lord, she even has a TV and DVD player inside so the kids can watch movies on long trips! What else do I need?

Nothing.

But many of us fall into the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality of our society and we think things are disposable. We’re quick to say we “need” something when in reality we are blessed with so much.

If you truly want to make your financial and career dreams come true, it may mean you have to make a “sacrifice” or two. And if you take my previous comments on mindset to heart, you might even see that changing your mindset will allow you to feel grateful for that 10 year old hoopty you’re driving rather than looking at it like a sacrifice at all :)


I wanted to share my journey with you. I wanted to celebrate how far we’ve come in honor of achieving a goal that was important to my family.

Perhaps you share a similar goal? If you do, I hope that this week’s article provided you with a little inspiration or motivation to keep going for whatever it is that you’re seeking in this moment.

I would love to hear from you! Are you on a similar journey? Have you considered going debt free (house and everything)? What challenges are you facing? What have you learned? Your comments are inspiring to me and others who read this blog :)

As always, thanks for being here!