Category Archives: Money Stuff

Tale of Two Rentals

First Rental: Backstory

(Two weeks ago)  I’m sitting on the floor of our old house.  I’m surrounded by four trash bags, a blender, and a pizza pan.

If I stood up, I’d be surrounded by a lot of kitchen stuff piled on the counters, but I just ate a bunch of Mexican food so I won’t be standing up for a few more minutes.  I stare at the tile floors beneath me and remember the day our parents helped us lay this floor five years ago.  I also never thought this house would become our first rental house.  I never thought we would have a rental house at all.

(Today)  I’ve heard a lot of scary things about being a landlord.  1.  Renters will tear up your house.  2.  Renters won’t pay their rent.  3.  Renters will become zombies and try to eat the neighbors.

Basically, anyone I’ve ever talked to about rental properties has told me, “it’s a terrible idea.”  Even though most of these people have never owned a rental property, I appreciate what they mean–“it’s risky!”  And, I AGREE!  I’m terrified.  I’m terrified of failing.  Also, I’m terrified of snakes, spiders, plane crashes, and I really dislike Jello.  But, I still get on planes, and I still go to the grocery store.  Why? It’s good for me to travel, it’s good for me to buy groceries, and I think it will be good for us to have a second source of income.

First Rental: Practical Info

We are managing this rental ourselves with the help of a lawyer and this book from Bigger Pockets.  If you want to know anything about how to set up a rental property, I HIGHLY recommend this book.  It walks you step by step through the rental process.  Here’s what we did (there’s way more detail in the book if you’re interested):

  1.  I read the rental property book and did exactly what it said.
  2. I advertised the house.  I didn’t have to do much advertising because we got 20 calls after we put a sign in the yard.
  3. We took applications, ran background checks, and chose a renter.

Rent.

$700 a month

Expenses.  Luckily, we don’t have a mortgage on our first rental because we paid it off a couple years ago.  Unfortunately, we still have to pay for a few things.

  1.  Insurance: $600 a year
  2. Taxes: $600 a year
  3. Lawyer fees: $350 so far…
  4. Repairs: ???
  5. Vacancies: ???

So far, this rental has been smooth sailing.  Our tenant moved in on the 1st, and we haven’t heard a peep.

Second Rental: Backstory

Our second rental is the house we flipped last year.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it to sell for what we wanted, so we decided to rent it.  Instead of us managing this one, we are using a property manager.  All property managers work differently, but typically they find tenants and take care of rental properties for a small percentage of the rent.  For this property, our manager gets paid half of the first months rent and 10% of every month after that.
Rent:
$795 a month.
Expenses.  Unfortunately, we do have a loan on this property.
1.  Insurance: $600 a year
2.  Taxes $600 a year
3.  Loan payment $1,200 a year (interest only loan payment)
4.  Property Management:  $1,360
5.  Repairs: At least $500
6.  Vacancies: ???
So far, this one has NOT been smooth sailing.  On the day our tenants were supposed to move in the air condition stopped working.  Next, we had a plumbing issue.  We haven’t got the final bills, but it’s looking like we’re not going to make money on this house for a while.  Awesome.

What now?

Well, nothing fun.  I would love to say that we are using the rental income to plan a vacation to Aruba.  Or Jamaica.  But, it’s way more dull than that.  We’re going to use the money for the foreseeable future (and if the air conditioners keep going out, we will never make it to the Caribbean) to pay off the loan on the second rental house.  As you can see, the loan we have only requires an interest only payment.  So, if we aren’t proactive in paying it off, it’s going to hang around forever.
Through this process, I’ve learned one thing.  Building a business takes FOREVER!  I thought I was supposed to be rolling in the greenery by now!  But, I guess it’s going to take a little (lot) more time.
On a completely different note.  Our baby turned one last month!  Currently, she is thinking about walking, she loves her blanket, and she is babbling in full paragraphs.  She recently had watermelon for the first time, and that is the only food she wants to eat.  So, she’s basically a real-life humming bird.
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We are totally in love.  She is the reason we’ve worked so hard to get these houses up and going.  Hopefully some day she won’t scream bloody murder as we work on them.  :/
Anything going on with you lately?  Ever thought about getting a rental property?

 

We Flipped a House… and (sort of) Liked It.

Hello!  I thought I’d catch you up and tell you about our baby.  I’m not talking about the amazing human baby we had last May.  I’m talking about the beast we bought last June– our first foreclosure.

My Big Lie

When my husband and I moved in to our current house, 5 years ago, we had to do a few projects.  We replaced all the flooring and painted every square inch of our casa.  In the process, I turned into a crazy person.  I wanted everything done in two weeks.  I basically went to bed with a paintbrush and roller in each hand.

When my husband and I decided to buy a foreclosure last June (a month after our real baby was born), he made me promise I wouldn’t turn into Kelsie-paint-hands.  So I did what every wife does on occasion: I lied.

I lied straight to his face.  Did he know me at all?  Of course, I expected it to be done in fifteen minutes!!!  Who was he kidding?!?

“Oh, I’m going to totally relax this time.  I give us a year to finish it,” I said, avoiding eye contact and flipping my hair to keep him from seeing my eyes.

Oh Sweet Reality, Much Like Getting Hit by a Bus

The joke is on me because it took us seven months to finish our first rehab project.  I have one word for this journey.  Wow.  It was so much more work than I expected.  And, we doubled our budget.  And, I didn’t have the mental capacity to blog, or do anything else except take care of a baby.

But, luckily we finished.  I’m so glad to be done!!! So, here are some pictures to sum up the last seven months of our lives.

Kitchen

The before:

This was where they shot the horror film: I Know Where You Ate Last Summer.  There were weird, rotting spots in the floor.  The cabinets were made of cardboard and held together with old food particles.  The backsplash and countertops were a layer of plastic covered with a layer of nasty.

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The after:

We replaced the subfloor, laid tile, put in new cabinets, appliances and doors.  We also painted and hung new light fixtures.

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BOOM!

Here are some more pics.

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I got a steal of a deal on this backsplash. It was only $30!

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We put in the back door. The old one didn’t lock, and we think that is an important function to have.

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Scored this brand new fridge for $450.00. But… we paid full price for the other appliances. Lame.

 

Family Room

The before: there are two living areas in our house.  I actually don’t have a before picture of the Living Room (it was pretty standard), but the Family Room had a giant eyesore of a fireplace that had to be battled and eventually taken down to pretty town.

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The after: this is one of my favorite things in our house.  It shows how much better a room can look with just some paint (and cleaning, a new light fixture, flooring…).

 

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Here are a few more pics:

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Bathroom

The before: have you ever gone into a restaurant/gas station bathroom and had the feeling you just got a disease?  The one where you look both ways trying to decide if it’s better just to leave?  This bathroom wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty bad.  I don’t have a picture of before, but here it is mid gut.

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The after:  this is the smallest room in the house, and it took the most work.  Full gut.  Down to the studs (and below).  Every surface is brand sparkling new!  It’s one of my favorite places, but that could be because I spent the most time in there.

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Other Stuff

We also rehabbed 3 bedrooms, a laundry room, a deck, a hallway area, put on a new roof, had the HVAC serviced… and the front of the house painted.

The not so good stuff

We busted our budget.  I haven’t ran the numbers officially (mostly because I’m scared to :)), but I know we doubled our rehab budget.  Luckily, we picked a project that was in our comfort zone so we are still okay.  I’ve been debating on whether to talk numbers or not.  On one hand, it is the internet.  On the other, I love numbers.  So, I’ll tell you what I know so far.

House price: $28,000

Projected rehab budget (in August): $10,000

Projected rehab budget (in November): $15,000

Actual rehab spending (in January): $20,000

The craziest part of this budget is that I thought I was good at estimating costs.  Apparently not.  And if we sell it, after realtor’s fees and closing costs we will make less than $1 an hour.

Lessons learned

Oh, there are so many.

  1.  I thought I could do everything myself.  I really did.  I didn’t think I needed anyone’s help.  Then the first time I lifted a box of tile I knew I was in over my head (and upper body strength).  If it wasn’t for my husband (and dad’s) help on the nights and weekends, I’d still be at that house covered in grout and tears.
  2. It’s probably going to cost about double what you estimate.
  3. It’s probably going to take you double the amount of time you estimated.
  4. You’re probably going to wish you never started.
  5. You’re probably going to be glad you did it!

The good

We learned so much.  I know this project wasn’t a big success, but I don’t think we could have learned any other way.  I think sometimes you just have to jump in.  And fail.  And jump in again.  And fail a little less.  Eventually you will succeed, right?

Overall, I’m really glad we did it.  If we didn’t, I’d still be watching HGTV thinking I was hidden genius at house flipping.  Now, I’m pretty content just watching HGTV knowing who the experts really are…and I’m pretty sure it’s not the people on tv 🙂

Maybe I’ll feel more like an expert next time?  Wait… did I just say next time?

 

 

 

 

 

Taco Bell in the Closet…A Rehab Story

“Keeeellllllsie,” my husband said as I walked into our rental house.

“Yeeeeees…” I said.  I could tell by his voice something was wrong.  I started to panic.  Was it a water leak?  Did someone break into the house?

I never expected what came next.

“Did you leave a bag of Taco Bell in the closet?” he asked.

I was relieved and a little scared.

3 Days Earlier…

My parents came down to help us rebuild the bathroom floor of our rental house.  As we were cleaning up, I was on bag patrol.  We had a ton of bags.  Bags from Lowes.  Trash bags.  Walmart bags.  And one bag from Taco Bell with five tacos in it.

I instantly knew what happened.  I put the Taco Bell bag that was meant for the trash can in the closet with the rest of the remodeling supplies.

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry,” I said, laughing.  I always do weird things like this.  It’s kind of my thing.

“Three day old Taco Bell– locked in a closet– is not a good surprise,” my husband said, smiling.  At least I think he was smiling…

We’ve had several surprises fixing up our rental house.

  1.  It needed a new roof.
  2. The air conditioning unit works!
  3. The bathroom needed to be gutted.

HGTV Lies

We hired people for the roof and the air conditioning, but decided to do the work on the bathroom ourselves with the help of my parents.  My mom watched the baby as I demolished this sweet green tile shower.

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The bathroom looked like this for a while.

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Until my husband and dad ripped out the two layers of subfloor, the tub, and the toilet.  Then, it got a little scarier when these worker bees ended up standing on the dirt under our house.

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This is when I started feeling bad for everyone.

I never thought we would have to demo the bathroom down to the floor joists.  I didn’t know what a floor joist was.  Honestly, I didn’t even know what held up a house.  I just thought magic fairies held up houses.  I was wrong: boards do (unless your house is on a concrete slab…see I’m learning!).

After we ripped everything out, we started putting it back together.  We laid down new, solid sub floor and laid concrete backer board on top to put tile on.

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Then, we put our tile and new shiny toilet into the bathroom!

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I’ve never been so excited about a toilet!  A huge shout out to my husband and dad who made this possible and to my husband’s dad who is helping us too.  We couldn’t do it without you.

The bathroom still needs a ton of work.  We’ve got to put in a tub, sheetrock around the tub, put in a vanity, finish tiling, and the list goes on.

Why can’t this take thirty minutes like on HGTV?

Progress is Progress?

Even though the progress is slower than on TV, it’s been fun.  I’ve worked hard– I can’t lift my arms above my head because I spent eight hours painting ceilings yesterday.  And, I’ve learned a ton– fairies don’t hold up houses and don’t leave your Taco Bell in a closet.

I haven’t learned my lesson though, because yesterday my husband was outside and I heard, “Keeeeelllllsie……”

“Yeeesssss,” I said.

“How long has this sandwich been in the cooler?”

What are you up to?  Ever been under a house or left food in a weird place?

 

10 Changes Since We Paid Off Our Mortgage

Thank you so much for your warmness.  I tried to think of a word that described all the support and love I received after writing my last post, and the only word I could think of was “warmth.”  I still feel weird/awkward/I’m-sorry-if-I-made-you-cry about putting that part of myself on the internet, but I think it was the right thing to do.

This year has been insane, but I thought I would answer the most common question I’ve been getting lately.  “What are you going to do with your mortgage payment since you paid off your house?”

The answer is: I don’t know.  There’s a lot of things we need to do like: pay off the little bit of debt we have left (almost there) or build up our savings.  Instead, we’re taking a completely irresponsible awesome breather.  Just so this post doesn’t turn into a wicked rambler, here’s a list of 10 changes since we paid off our mortgage.

1.  We got cable back.  Ugh, I could have continued to live without it.  I’m basically a Netflix-Junkie.  But, my husband wanted sports… sports… and more sports.  Not only do we have cable, but we have the entire SEC Network.  This means I get to critique all the uniforms (or “outfits” as I like to call them).

2.  We got a second tv–MOUNTED in our bedroom.  I’ve been singing, “I’m so fancy…” for weeks.

3.  We bought the dogs some new accessories–including a fancy brush called a “Furgopet” that’s supposed to stop shedding.  We’re still looking for a brush that removes mud…

I don't even know how to caption this.  I'm not even sure what's going on.

I don’t even know how to caption this. I’m not even sure what’s going on.

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4.  I bought some pants!  I hadn’t bought work pants in FOREVER.  One of my favorite pairs had a zipper that was barely hanging on.  Okay, it was busted.

5.  We went on an anniversary trip to Branson, Missouri.  Home of hillbillies and pretty decent pant shopping.

6.  We got a new couch.  It fits us both, and it’s pretty stellar.  I definitely don’t use the word stellar enough.

7.  My husband is getting a new bow.  I wish I was talking about hair bows.  Or bowties.  I’m not.  He’s getting a new bow for killing friendly animals.

8.  I got a promotion at work.  I’ve been spending the last five weeks as an “Associate Director.”  I know, what were they thinking?!

9.  I’m working on getting my real estate license.  If all goes as planned, I’ll be slinging houses by the end of the month.

10.  We’re looking at purchasing our first investment property.  I promise to tell you if we actually purchase one.  Until then, I won’t mention it very much on this hot BlogSpot.  I’ve been the girl-who-cries-real-estate-wolf too many times.

Have you had any life changes lately?  I hope everything has been amazing for you lately!

How We Paid Off Our House in 2 Years

Two years ago, we had a crazy goal: to pay off our mortgage (you can read about it here, here, here and here).  Countless paychecks, a lot of headaches, and even a few arguments later, it’s official.  Blog official.  The day we’ve been waiting for: we paid off our house.  At 7:00 a.m., today, we submitted our last mortgage payment.

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Watch that mortgage burn!

 

I hope this post doesn’t sound braggy– honestly, I don’t want it to be.  Everyone has different goals and dreams for their lives.  I just want this post to encourage you to finish your big goals, financial or otherwise.  We didn’t start with a grand plan, we actually just lucked into the right house, and then we just went to work.

 1.  Live off one salary (or half of your salary).

When we bought our house, about 4 years ago, I didn’t have a job.  My husband was working at his first job out of college, so we didn’t have much money.  I was TERRIFIED about becoming “house poor,” so we bought a tiny house that we knew we could afford.  Four years later, we’re still living off one salary.  We aren’t disciplined, and we spend whatever is in our checking account, so my check is directly deposited into a separate account.  There are no debit cards attached to the separate account, so we can’t get to that money.  We automatically used my paychecks to pay off the house, and eventually we were able to use part of my husband’s pay checks as well.

2.  Buy a tiny, inexpensive house.

When we bought our house, 3.5 years ago.  Our house payment was 20% of our take home salary.  First, I got a job (or 4!), last winter we cut our payment in half by refinancing, also we got some raises, and in addition we started tithing.  After all was said and done, our house payment ended up being 4% of our take home salary.  Less than most people’s car payments!  By buying something we could really afford, and then working toward increasing our income and cutting our payments, we were able to pay off our mortgage.

3.  Live somewhere “lame.”

There are awesome neighborhoods around us.  There are really trendy places nearby.  There are places where you can walk to restaurants, parks, and shops.

We don’t live there.  We live in a little town outside a big city.  In our little town there are more retired people than hipsters.  There are a couple restaurants, but most of them are chains.  And, you can’t walk your dog to any stores.  Even thought our little town is “lame” in some ways, we’ve really grown to like it.  It’s safe.  The people are nice.  Our friends are close.  And there is one trail, and my dogs know every inch.

Our “lame” town allowed us to buy a cheap house, which is the ONLY way we were able to pay off our mortgage in such a short time.  Through this whole process, I’ve actually started liking my town.  I think that it’s pretty cool.  I just need to start wearing hats and wearing roller skates.  Isn’t that what hipsters do?  Should I open a food truck, maybe?

4.  Cut your monthly expenses.

When we really got serious about paying off our mortgage 2 years ago, I started looking at all of our expenses.  We cut cable.  I drive a “free” car.  We cut everything that wasn’t necessary.  I increased our insurance deductibles.  I slashed our grocery bill.  I don’t have a smart phone (but that’s another story… and it’s only been going on for two months).  No monthly bill was safe!  I was a serial debt killer.

5.  Have a support system.

Whatever big goal you want to persue, you’ve got to have people around you who will encourage you.  My biggest support was definitely my husband.  Actually, he’s not my “support.” He is much more than that.  He is the one who accomplished this.  He worked two jobs.  He killed it at work to make bonuses.  He got on board with my insane plan.  I can never repay him for all he has done to make this goal happen.

Also, we had some amazing support from our families.  Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and our friends.  No one ever made fun of us or made us feel crazy.  For that, we are forever grateful.  Thank you more than words can say.

Want to succeed?  Get yourself some support staff.  Even if it’s just one person who you can talk to about your crazy goal, you’ll need someone to encourage and drag pick you up along the way.

6.  Figure out your “why”.

You may not want to pay off your mortgage.  I’m the first to admit it’s not for everyone.  One of the reasons we wanted to kill this debt is because we want to buy rental houses in the future, specifically foreclosures.  After we failed at this a couple times, we realized we needed to get our finances in order first.  We have several other “whys,” but I’m not ready to blog about them yet, or maybe ever.  Please, just know being mortgage free runs deep in my heart for reasons I haven’t been able to tell you about.

If you have a big goal, I know you can do it.  The best way is to focus on your “whys.”  Family, future goals, kids, friends, past failures, etc. are great “whys” to keep you motivated.  Trust me, you’ll need something to focus on to keep you motivated, when all you want to do is buy shoes!

7.  Block out the noise.

Could we have made more on our money if we should have invested it?  Yes.  Would we have worked as hard to invest in a retirement account?  No.

You know in your gut what is right for you and your situation.  Lots of people will give you advice.  There are tons of people who think what we did was stupid.  Heck, sometimes I thought what we were doing was stupid.  But, I always heard a voice in my heart that told me to keep going.  Sometimes you just have to trust that voice.

8.  Figure out what’s next.

We haven’t done this step yet.  Really, I have no idea what is next.  I want to buy some rental properties soon, but I don’t know when that will be.  We’re just ready to take a break, and figure out what is next.  Most of all, it’s time to celebrate!

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Pink and Rick didn’t like champagne. That’s only the second food they’ve ever rejected… they don’t have the best taste in wine.

Full disclosure: we aren’t quite debt free yet.  We still have a couple little debts take care of–it’s a loooooonnng story about why we paid our mortgage off first.  Maybe something for another day!  We should be done with everything next month, I’ll keep you updated.

What do you think?  Would you ever pay off your mortgage?

4 Reasons You Need a Side Hustle!

One of My Bucket List Items for this year is to make $1000 a month outside my “regular” job.  I plan to do this by working some side hustles–any job outside of your main job qualifies as a side hustle, for example: mowing yards, freelance writing, selling your dogs… you get the point.

For the first three months of the year I ignored my side hustle goal.  I had no idea where to start.  In April, I figured I should start trying something– anything.  So far my progress has been slow.  But, it hasn’t been non-existent!  Since lots of bloggers publish how much money they make from their side hustles, I thought it might help me stay motivated to keep track of my side hustle income on this blog.  So, once a month, I’ll update you on how it’s going.

Before you check out how much I earned in April, I have to let you know something that totally surprised me.  It’s super hard to tell you how much I earned.  Payment takes a lot of time to “clear” from some online business.  To keep it simple, I’m just going to count “earned” money as money in my bank account–I’ll put what money is still outstanding by the side.

April Side Hustle Earnings

Writing for other websites: $57.06

Fiverr: $0 — I actually earned $4.oo, but it hasn’t cleared the bank yet.

Total:   $57.06 Amount needed to reach $1,000:  $942.94

Even though I didn’t get anywhere close to my goal, I’m pretty happy with my progress.  Even bloggers who make over $10,000 a month had to start somewhere, right?

Here’s 4 reasons you should think about getting a side hustle (even if you don’t need more money):

1.  It will make you better at your “real job”:

Since I’ve been messing around with blogs/graphics/videos for so long, I’m way better at my regular job.  I constantly use things I’ve done here or on other websites to help me create projects at work.  For example, I’m working on a manual at my “real job” right now.  I’m using the same software on the manual that I used to make my My Yearly Bucket List Book.  I only know how to use the software because I did it here first.

2.  It will make you more confident:

Want to know a secret?  I get really scared to post ANYTHING on this blog.  Sometimes I’ll write a post, and it will take me an entire week to hit “publish.”  Weird, right?  As I’ve started to write and design for other websites, I’ve gotten a little more confident.

Nothing will make you more confident then seeing your skills make money in the marketplace.  I just joined fiverr.com, it’s a marketplace that sells $5.00 services.  I uploaded a “gig”(my $5 service) and the next morning someone bought it!  Cha-ching!  Here’s a link to the gig I created!  Now, you’re probably thinking, “Kelsie, you silly dog lady, that’s not even enough to cover your time!”  Well, you’re right.  Like anything, this will take time to grow.  And, selling something made me feel like a million bucks!  Doesn’t that count?

3.  It will be fun:

IF you’re going to invest your time on a side hustle, you’re going to do something you like.  You’ll have a great time, and you’ll feel fulfilled because you’re following your dreams.  What’s more fun than that?!

4.  You can make extra money!

Okay, I know I said these reasons weren’t about money, but you should never believe me.  We’re trying to pay off our house, remember?  While it will probably take me a while to build my side hustles, the extra dollars help.  You can make a few extra dollars, too.  If you want a side hustle, but you don’t know what to do, here’s a list of 75 side hustles you should check out!

 

Do you do anything on the side? Do you think it’s worth it

I hope you have the best week ever,

Kelsie

 

Our Mortgage Pay Off Date Is…

What separates a dream from reality?  A date.  We’ve been working on our mortgage pay-off dream for about two years (here, here, here, and here), and we finally have a finish-ish date.  Exciting stuff!  It’s like our dream is being born.  It is a living, breathing being.  The only problem?  We’ve still got a while, so it’s tiny.  Like Pink when he was a puppy.

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Even though it’s small, we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for our mortgage pay-off adventure.  About a month ago, I totally geeked out.  I made a spreadsheet.  I included every paycheck we were *hopefully* getting in the next year, and I how much we were *hopefully* going to put towards our mortgage.  Then, poof!  In seconds I found out what day we would *hopefully* be done paying off our mortgage.  Drumroll, please!  If we’re reallllllllly good, it looks like our mortgage debt free date will be July 22.  If we’re not so good, it will be August 5.

Crazy, huh?!?!  It’s so exciting to have an actual date.  It’s about five months behind where we planned, but we’re still really happy with it.  We originally thought we would be done paying off our mortgage in March 2014.  Yeah, that was a little ambitious/insane.  Unfortunately, this isn’t our completely debt free date, because we still have a few minor things to take care of after the house.  Wah Wah.  So *hopefully* we will be completely debt free by the end of the year.  We’re focusing on our mortgage right now, because we’re tired of it.  This tired.

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Even though we’re exhausted, we’ve had an amazing past 5 months on our journey.  Currently, we have $9,000 left on our mortgage.  Mostly because my husband has been killing it at work.  I’ve been killing it …at spreadsheets and taxes.  Here’s a blank copy of the spreadsheet I created if you’re interested.

Debt Free Tracker

Even thought my spreadsheet is pretty intense, it’s incredible to see that after 2 years of work we’re so close to our goal!  I can’t believe that pretty soon-ish I’ll be able to write about the first rental house we’re buying.  I only wish I would have made this spreadsheet earlier, because it’s so motivating. IF you’re working towards a goal calculating your finish date is exteremely rewarding!  It will turn your dream into a reality.  So, do it!

Do you have a date for your big goal?

How I Dominated Our Taxes

Last year tax time was brutal for us.  We had to pay in $1,000 in Federal and State Taxes.  It hurt like a dirty Rick in your truck…

rick in truck

Still not sure how this happened.

 

Our tax blunder was my fault because I put 2 deductions on my w-2.  Essentially this was like telling the government that we have 2 kids.  I’m not sure why I did this.  Maybe I was thinking Pink and Rick counted as children?  Who knows…I probably was just putting numbers down in the squares.

I was too lazy to go back to HR and change my deductions, and I really didn’t want my paycheck to get any smaller, so I left my w-2 the same for this year.  We braced ourselves, hard.

Because I knew we were about to get KILLED.  I decided to do our taxes at myself.  Our state sends out a booklet with all the necessary forms in it, so I decided to use it to do our state taxes for free– by hand.  It’s the caveman’s approach to state taxes.  Then, my plan was to use one of the free federal forms online.

Round 1: State Taxes (-450… plus more Federal)

I started our state taxes, and my calculations said we had pay in $450.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t gotten to federal yet.  This was about to be ugly.

Round 2: State Taxes (-157… plus more Federal)

We’ve never paid enough in mortgage interest to be able to deduct it on our taxes, but we started tithing last year.  So, I did our state taxes again and put in out house interest and tithing.  This ended up being a great move, because then our bill was brought down to $157.   I wrote the check (while still cursing the government–even though my bill dropped in half) and put it in an envelope and got ready to send it in.

Round 3: Federal Taxes (State: -157, Federal: -550) 

I searched online for a free federal tax form, and I found TaxAct.com- which said you could fill out a federal form for free.  I filled it out, and it was as bad as I thought.  We had to pay in $550 in Federal Taxes.

Round 4: Federal and State Taxes (State: +700, Federal -280)

Because tithing and mortgage interest helped in our state tax battle, I decided it was worth a shot on trying to itemize our federal taxes too.  Something amazing happened.  I’m calling it tax magic.  It brought down our Federal tax bill to $280.  Since, I was clearly on a roll, I decided to double check my state tax work.  I’m SO GLAD I did, because I must have done something horribly wrong in my initial calculations.  After I entered in the state information from our W-2’s we’re getting a REFUND from the state for $700.

Moral of the story: don’t let me do your taxes…by hand like a caveman.

Better moral of the story: take that tax man.  You have to pay us this year.  I call that complete DOMINATION.  Oh, and just so you know it only cost me $5 to print out my state tax form, and it cost me $12.00 to upgrade to the “Delux Version” of the federal taxes on TaxAct.com.  It was totally worth it to save around $1,000 in taxes (p.s. I don’t get any money from them, I just thought  you’d want to know how much they charge).

Anyway, here’s to hoping Pink and Rick will actually count as tax deductions next year.  They sure eat enough.

How did your taxes go?!

The Best Amount of Debt to Pay Off

Hey Pink and Rick-ers,

Did you know there’s a “sweet spot” for debt pay off?  This means there’s an optimal amount of debt to have–if you’ve got to have it.  There’s an amount that will give you the biggest feeling of accomplishment, paying it off will make a huge impact of your life, but paying it off won’t take your entire life.  What’s the number?

It’s $20,000.

How do I know this?

From experience: when we started down the road of no debt, we had to pay off $20,000 of student loans– which were ALL mine.  It was pretty awful, and it was really perfect at the same time.

Why?

1.  You get to be a super hero!  Trying to destroy something as big as $20,000 in debt, will make you feel like a million bucks.  You get to take down a huge obstacle and feel like a super hero in your own life.  What’s better than that?

2.  You get to feel like part of a team.  To pay off $20,000 you will have to ask for help–maybe it’s just finding a budget online, or maybe this means you have to get your partner/spouse on board.  If you’re single, finding an accountability partner can be a great way to stay motivated.  If you don’t have one, you can always ask me!  Being part of a team will make you feel amazing.

3.  You’re going to feel great afterward.  You’re officially taking charge of your life, and the sense of accomplishment is HUGE after paying off $20,000.  You will feel like you can do anything.

4.  You are going to lose a big monthly payment.  After paying of $20,000, I got rid of a $300+ monthly payment.  We felt so free, that it made the work feel even MORE worth it.

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We felt as free as Rick in a pile of leaves!

Now you might feel 3 ways.

1.  You have $20,000 in debt.  Great!  You’re in the perfect debt pay off position!  You’re going to have to work very hard, but start by finding your team and feeling like a super hero!

2.  You have less than $20,000 in debt. Congratulations!  You don’t even have to work as hard!

3.  You have more than $20,000 in debt.  Congratulations–ish!  You’re going to have to work very very hard.  But, there is a very simple solution.  Split your debt up into $20,000 chunks and celebrate (by doing something awesome) when you finish killing each chunk.

I’ve actually been in all 3 groups.  When we were paying off my student loans we were in group 1.  When we were done paying off my student loans we were in group 2.  Now, we’re actually in group 3 when we decided to pay off our house a year and a half ago.

After a tonnnn of work and a VERY small house loan, (seriously our house is tiny and we live in a small–yet awesome–place) guess what?!?  We’ve made it to the $20,000 level.  Yesterday, we sent in a payment and our remaining balance is $20,000 and some change.  It’s been crazy hard and a huge task, but we’re excited to be down to only owing $20,000 on our house.

How are we celebrating?  We’re going on two trips this month– one is to Vegas!  We’re really excited to celebrate in Sin City, and we promise not to get into too much trouble.  Actually, I don’t promise that, I only promise to tell you if we do get into too much trouble!

But, even though $20,000 is the sweet spot, there is one spot that’s MUCH sweeter–$0.  Hopefully we will be there soon!

*full disclosure-  I don’t think paying off your mortgage is right for everyone.  It’s the right thing for us based on some future goals.  However, I DEFINITELY think you should get rid of all credit card/student loan debt.  Mostly, because it will make you feel amazing!

Do you think $20,000 is too much or too little to be the best amount of debt to pay off?

My Secret Financial Goal: What’s yours?!

Well I’m back!  We just got back from a week cruise to the Caribbean.  I had a great time hanging out with my family and my husband.  We ate so much, I thought I was in a food coma.

This was my first cruise, and getting to spend 5 days with my family was incredible.  But, I’m not sure if I’m going to jump on a boat anytime soon.  I couldn’t get over the images of Titanic.  Neither could my husband after I clawed his arm every time the boat moved.  Every night, before I went to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking we were going to go down… into Davy Jones’ Locker.  I’m sure dolphins would have saved us.  And if the dolphins were too busy, I’m sure the Little Mermaid would have sang us to safety.  What was I worried about anyway?!?

Speaking of fears, I had a great convo with my sister.  She’s a really successful at work AND she makes some mean cookies.  She’s pretty much an all-around amazing person.  Anyway, we were talking about finances, and she asked me how everything is going.

Then, I had an epiphany, I said, “I just want to be able to say that if we both lost our jobs, one of us could work at McDonalds, and we would be fine.”

I immediately thought my goal was crazy.  Why can’t I have a normal goal, like, “buying a boat, backpacking through Europe, or living in a castle?”

Suddenly, I realized why this goal/fear’s been driving my financial progress.  You see, I graduated in 2008.  Jobs were hard to come by.  So, I took the first one I found… making $7.00 an hour (my little brother made more that summer as a lifeguard.  Crazy, huh?).  To give me more career options, I went back to grad school the next year.  After grad school, I took the first job I found again, making $22,000 a year.

To clarify, these were great jobs.  I was very lucky to get each of them.  Both of them gave me tremendous skills–that I rely on today.  However, those opportunities also taught me an interesting lesson.  You’re not guaranteed anything.  I expected my life path to very linear.  I would go to college, find a good job, and stay at that job until I retired.  But, in 2008, it was hard to find a high paying job for an average student with a low-paying major without any connections.  Also, I needed something quickly because my student loans were knocking on the door.  And, for some reason, they didn’t like the “optional repayment strategy” I tried out.

I don’t really care about making a ton of money.  I just want to be able to support myself (my family) if I need to.  Therefore, the only conclusion I could come to, after realizing that I’m a little weird, is it’s okay if one of my biggest financial goals involves working at McDonalds.  I’m a product of a ever-shifting workforce.  And, that’s pretty exciting because it forces everyone to learn new skills.  And, if something happens and my husband and I both lose our jobs, I think I would love working at McDonalds!

Anyway, that’s one of my biggest/craziest financial goals: to  work at McDonalds and still be able to provide for my family.  What’s your secret financial goal?