Last week I posted about WHY we chose to pay off our mortgage. Today's post is about HOW we paid it off in six years on one income.
First, I should let you know I did do some substitute teaching for about 5 months about 3 days a week during our marriage so we were "double income" during those few months.... although the amount I made certainly didn't come close to full time employment.
On our honeymoon Scott and I read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It was a wedding gift and one that I am very thankful for! After reading that book we were sold on paying off our mortgage. But we thought: "How in the world are we going to do this on one income... a teacher's income at that?!"
One of the main things I took away from that book that has always stuck with me and that I think is the main thing that kept me devoted to paying off the house was: "Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else." Scott and I knew that if we were going to pay off our mortgage on one income that we would have to live like no one else so that eventually we could live like no one else (debt free). This became a mantra for me when I felt like a weirdo for not doing what everyone else was doing.
Here are the some of the ways that we paid off our mortgage.... basically by living like "no one else" and putting all that money we weren't spending on the things listed below toward our loan:
1. We ate out maybe twice a year. We hardly ever ate out and we tried to do only fast food on rare occasions when we were traveling more than four hours on the road. If we did go out for a birthday or anniversary we used a gift card. Making meals at home saves you LOTS of money. (I must admit that one thing that helped us in this area is that we only had four children in those six years and they were all six and under so they didn't eat that much :)
2. We don't go big on any holidays or birthdays. For birthdays we don't usually do anything fancy (have a couple friends over and eat cake that I make and have dinner that I also made) and we only buy one gift for each child on their birthday. Scott and I don't buy each other anything... like not even a card for holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. It's a nice mutual agreement we have that keeps expectations low and expenses low :) For Christmas we let each kid buy their siblings a small gift and then we ask the grandparents to only buy one special gift for each child. Holidays can REALLY ADD UP. I think our perspective on toys in general saves us lots of money.
3. We don't go anywhere. Okay... maybe that's an exaggeration... but if you ask some of our closest friends they would concur. We like to stay home which also helps with keeping the gas bill and car upkeep to a minimum. Traveling is expensive. We rarely went on vacations. Even our honeymoon was free because my in-laws let us use their time share in Palm Springs.
4. We don't go to the movies. I think since Scott and I have been married we have been to the movie theater twice. You all know how much money you can spend at a theatre and that sort of spending ain't privy to paying off your house.
5. We talk about every purchase that isn't food. Now this is where I really sense the "live like no one else" mantra kicking in. I also think this is what has saved us the most money. If it's a bucket or a piece of clothing for the kids or a bathmat or any other non-food item, we talk about it. I am naturally a spender and my husband is naturally a saver. I know how to waste money like nobody's business! This rule helped me so much to really consider what I am buying and if it is something we REALLY NEED. You would be amazed at how little we really need and how many of our purchases are really just what we want. The key is to see the great NEED to be debt free.
6.We hardly ever went out for coffee. Starbucks is not a friend to those wanting to be debt free! If you get the average drink there five days a week that's over a grand a year that you are spending on coffee! In fact we splurged on "unnecessary items" (like starbucks) VERY rarely. Books, concerts (we've never been to a concert actually...), name brand fashion, cds, dvds, the latest and greatest tech. stuff etc. were all on our "unnecessary list".
7. We rarely bought clothes. If we did it was always secondhand or again, with a gift card. We have been very blessed with hand me downs as well. Yard sales are the best for buying clothes!
8. We aren't big decorators/home-improvers. We don't even paint the walls. We like to keep the house tidy but we don't spend money on making it "prettier". Home improvements increase the cost of "living" greatly. We have the same furniture my husband had when I married him (including the dining room table and living room furniture). Yard sales, again, are a wonderful place to purchase home needs. Buying things just because you want something to LOOK better isn't a good idea when you are trying to pay your house off. After we paid our house off we got a recliner and that was quite a splurge (even though it was half off at Fred Meyer :) I do have a desire to "pretty things up" a bit now that the house is paid off but it just wasn't a priority before.
9. We buy used cars. A new car is a terrible investment. The second you drive your new car off the lot your car loses so much value it is crazy! We have purchased three used vehicles in our eight years of marriage and probably put about 3,000 miles a year on each vehicle. (Refer back to number 3).
10. Neither of us have hobbies. Hobbies cost money. Some hobbies cost a lot of money. My husband isn't into cars... guns... music... he just likes to study the bible a lot and that's not expensive :) He does like to workout but he has either just done cardio downstairs or found a super good deal on a gym. I don't sew, do any sorts of crafts, paint or have any animals... animals are another expense. We're not hobby people or animal people and this is another major way we save money.
Basically, you would never have heard us say: "It's just five dollars!" Five dollars, one dollar, twenty dollars, they all add up! All those fives and ones and twenties can go toward your mortgage and get you on your way to freedom from debt!
We did not pay in twice monthly increments we simply put ANY and ALL extra money toward our mortgage. For example, when I inherited $10,000, we didn't even think twice about using it for anything else but our mortgage. ALL of our tax returns (which we averaged $6-7,000 a year) were put entirely toward our mortgage. We didn't look at these "big chunks of cash" as opportunities to spend on anything else.
For one year of our marriage Scott was working part time as a youth pastor and full time as a teacher. That was the most money we made in our marriage and again we took that as an opportunity to put all our extra cash toward our house.
So that's how we paid off our house in six years on one income. It's not easy "living like no one else" but it's SO WORTH IT!
None of this is to brag or boast. It is simply to encourage those who are thinking of living like no one else so that they can live like no one else.