Browse Category by Small living

Financial independence – FI

You know it’s time to move when you look through pictures of your home after you remodeled it and realize you’ve changed out most pieces of furniture.

My brother Phillip was in town visiting for the holidays recently and as usual we got into talks of our hopes and dreams. He showed us this amazing video of a man named Slomo in San Diego who rollerblades all day and night and is living his best, and happiest life.

The conversation then shifted to financial independence. Phillip asked if we had heard of the FI movement, and the answer was yes. Back when we lived in Colorado I remember reading Mr. Money Mustache’s blog a few times, as he was located just 15 min from where we lived, and I’ve always been fascinated by personal finance. I had also just read this NY Times article on the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early). During this conversation Zach and I became acutely aware that we have gotten too comfortable.

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Business planning, Buying houses, Debt Free Living, Fixer Upper, Investments, Move forward, Planning, Small living, Smart money, Uncategorized

Live within constraints.

Four years ago Zach spoke on Boundless Creativity via Boundaries, Constraints, and Limitations at Ignite Denver. He’s been saying it for years, and it still holds true today. The more we restrain ourselves, the more creative we are.

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Look at us laughing at how little we spent on our wedding day!

I remember back in 2007 we had a budget of a whopping $2,000 for our wedding, including my dress! This is not a joke. My parents have always provided well for me and my 4 siblings, but they’ve never had a lot or money. Zach and I also had very little money. When we got married we were both going to school full time, and I was working as a Cosmetologist. So we had to make this budget work. If I remember correctly, I think we spent closer to $1,500!

Here’s how:

  • My dress was $400 (and the first dress I tried on).
  • We had our reception in the gym at our church which was free.
  • Our flowers for my bouquet and center pieces were roses from Costco (hello $24 for 2 dozen roses).
  • We didn’t hire a DJ, instead we used our iPod for a playlist.
  • My aunt made our wedding cake.
  • My mom made ham and turkey sandwiches on rolls for food, and had other small finger food.
  • Our photographer was a friend and I think charged around $300? (I do wish we had spent more here)
  • My friends from beauty school did my hair.
  • My shoes were from Payless.
  • I borrowed a necklace from a girl in College who I didn’t even know that well, but I liked it. Ha!

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Debt Free Living, Small living, Smart money

Easiest way to save money.

Zach has been out of college and in the workforce for 8 years now. For the past 8 years he can count on one hand how many times he has paid to go out for lunch, impressive! Going out to eat for lunch is such the norm and most people don’t think twice about how much money they are spending. Based on the idea of paying $10 a day (which I wouldn’t be surprised if this number was actually higher) 5 days a week… you are looking at $200 a month. Now, what if you are a double income family, and both of you are eating out every day? That’s $400 a month!! Four. Hundred. Dollars!

So, if you can afford eating out for lunch every day, you can afford a house. If you and your partner were to pack a lunch every day for the next 22.5 months, less than 2 years, you would have enough money for a 3% downpayment on a $300,000 house. That’s right. Less than two years from now, rather than having nothing to show for your $400 a month… you could have $9,000 saved and be moving into your first home. Start packing!

 

Buying houses, Move forward, Planning, Small living, Smart money

New Airbnb in Louisville, CO

This last week I made a trip back to Colorado to visit our good friends (and our family Photographer) Ashleigh and Ian. I made the trip because they decided they wanted to rent out their spare bedroom on Airbnb. This was extra special because they purchased their house from us!  It was a lot of fun to be back in Louisville (although it was all of 36 hours) and get them squared away.

Have you ever considered renting your house out on Airbnb? Or, rent out a spare bedroom? Tell us about it!

Airbnb, Business planning, Debt Free Living, Planning, Small living, Smart money

Our Airbnb Rental. Sort of.

After years of considering and trying to find a way to have a full time airbnb rental. We have one! Kind of. As you probably already know by now, we are big Airbnb fans. We use it to find places to stay when we travel, and we also use it to rent out our home when we are gone. We. Love. It.

We initially thought about renting out our basement bedroom several months back, after we added a door in the laundry room. Having a second entrance made it feel like, why wouldn’t we do this? After a lot of excitement we ultimately decided that a few extra dollars wasn’t worth the hassle.

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However, after being able to talk with other people who are also renting out spaces in their homes and really genuinely enjoying meeting the people who rent from them, we had to at least give it a shot.

Based on our research, we anticipated that we would make around $1,000-1,200 a month renting out our basement bedroom.. However, we posted on our instagram page about it and shortly after, our sister in law called. Her brother’s family had just moved to Tuscon from Portland right before her nephew’s senior year. And they had been looking relentlessly for a place for him to stay during his last year of high school. So we decided to rent the room to him. Room and Board- $400 a month.

Our kids love him and we think it’s going to be a good year! For now, Airbnb is on the back burner. Some day we will make it happen.

Airbnb, Investments, Small living, Smart money

Could we live here forever?

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Zach and I bought our first house during the big housing crash of 08′. During 08′ a lot of people were not buying homes in fear of housing prices continuing to plummet and with major lack of trust in the housing industry. Because we came out of college at one of the worst economic downturns our country has ever seen, when we bought our first house, and subsequent houses, we had this question in mind “Could we live here forever?”

History has shown time and time again that after a housing crash, with enough time, the housing market will recover. This gave us confidence that buying would be ok. But of course, like others, we were concerned that we hadn’t seen the worst of it. So, each time we purchased a house, even though we weren’t planning on any of these houses being our “forever home” we wanted to make sure that if Zach lost his job or the market worsened, we would be able to stay in the house as long as needed.

I honestly believe that to this day we could make each of our houses work, even with a family of 6. The smallest house we’ve had was just under 1200sf which is larger than the average home in Hong Kong, China, UK, Japan and Spain. Every time we purchased, I would walk through the rooms and picture what it would look like if we stayed long term. What if I have another baby, and it’s not one, but two, or three! Twins, Triplets? Yep, I still felt confident I could pull it off. Just doing this exercise helped me feel at ease that we weren’t making a mistake. Or that we wouldn’t wish later on that we had held out for a larger home.

When buying a home, even if you plan to only live there for a year or two, try this exercise and ask yourself “Can I live here forever?”. It can help ease the home buying anxiety, and leave you feeling confident that you can make anything work. Because let’s face it, in hard times, I think each and every one of us would just be grateful to have a home.

Be decisive, Buying houses, First time homebuyer, Planning, Small living

My inner JLO vs granola.

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Image source

This concept is one I learned from one of my best friends, who also happens to be my sister in law, Emily. She once told me how she had this inner struggle of her JLO vs granola and I couldn’t believe how much it resonated with me, and I adopted it as my own. So here it is.

There is a part of me that wants all things glamorous, and this is my JLO. I want a big house with a spa like master bathroom, gourmet kitchen, my own office, beautiful decks overlooking amazing views and a large open living area. I want a brand new van that smells new and rides like a dream. I want cute clothes that make me feel like a babe, and lots of them. I want eyelash extensions. I want a manicure, pedicure and massage every week.

I also have a part of me that wants all things granola. I want to live in a tiny house with my family that sits on a farm where we live off the land. I want to drive a Westfalia camper (why do these only seat 5 people!?) and go on road trips and camping with the kids. I want to live completely debt free. I don’t want to wear makeup. I don’t want a cell phone. I want to travel around the world as a family and have few worldly possessions.

This battle is real.  And this battle inside of me wants two completely different things. I think a lot of us are like this but until now, had no way to describe this inner struggle. I tend not to live on the extreme with either of these… but I do fall more naturally towards the granola category, thanks to Zach who was born to be a minimalist. While I want the fancier things in life, I also have a realistic view on how my life can go. I can either work really hard for a really long time to get all the material things I want. Or, we can buy less, save more and retire sooner. No matter how tempting it is to get weekly massages (or even monthly!) I choose to work towards a place in life where Zach can leave his day job and we can spend more time as a family. JLO, I’m sorry, I can’t be faithful to you.

Debt Free Living, Planning, Small living, Smart money

My engagement ring, and why it says so much.

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When Zach proposed to me, he defied all rules. He didn’t ask my Father’s permission, he went against his parents advice, he didn’t kneel down on one knee, and he asked me to marry him with a simple, white gold band- no diamonds. We were sitting in his car parked on a street that had maybe a little bit of a city view and that’s where our eternal commitment to each other started (I later found out he was so nervous he was just driving around with me in the car looking for a place to propose).

When I told people we were engaged, they thought I was kidding. Why didn’t they believe me? Well, my ring didn’t have a diamond on it. I had multiple people tell me “you can just get a cubic zirconia to wear until you can afford a diamond”. One time a girl who heard I was engaged asked me to see my ring (naturally). When I held out my hand, she twisted the ring around and said “You didn’t want a diamond?” With an extremely confused look on her face.

When Zach decided he wanted to ask me to marry him, he went into the local jewelers and asked “what’s the least expensive ring you have?” Zach had about $100 to his name, and spent about $40 of that on my ring. I cannot express how grateful I am for this! We were surrounded by others who were getting engaged and taking out loans to buy rings that cost thousands of dollars. And here Zach was, being financially responsible*, not going into debt, and allowing us to start off our marriage right.

Getting engaged was not about a diamond. And it definitely wasn’t about buying a cubic zirconia to give off the image of wealth and conformity. It was about having the man I loved, and love even more today, ask me to spend the rest of our lives together. The ring was a symbol of this commitment and nothing more. To this day, my ring reminds me of the love Zach has for me and it now symbolizes how we try to live our lives: simple, debt free, and committed.

*Some may argue that getting engaged with $100, well $60, in your bank account would not be financially responsible, but we were college students and I’ll admit, it was a little crazy in hindsight.

Be decisive, Debt Free Living, Move forward, Small living, Smart money

The power of starting small.

When purchasing your first home, or even subsequent homes, it’s tempting to buy the nicest, biggest house your budget can afford. A house you can grow into and raise your kids in for years to come. However, if you want to invest in real estate, the most affordable way to do that is buying a home as a primary residence (more on this in a later post). So when you purchase a home, making sure the home fits your current needs, along with the needs of the near future (1-2 years) is important, but being cautious of A. Your spending B. rentability and C. being motivated to move into another house sooner than later, is important.

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Our first home was a 1200sf townhouse. We knew that whatever we purchased, we would want to keep it and rent it out when we moved. For us, in our early 20’s, we wanted maintenance free living, and a future rental that would be the least amount of hassle. A townhouse fit our needs, no yard work, no exterior care needed, and it still had 3 beds, 2.5 baths. While this house really did have enough room to grow into for a while, it was also not our dream home and therefore it was easy to move out of it when the next opportunity presented itself.

 

The next house we bought was a 1200sf condo. Only 2 bedrooms, but still 2.5 bath. The condo was only 2 miles from Zach’s work so the lifestyle was what was so appealing. It was also located in a great spot in Boulder and we knew it would be a breeze to rent it out.

When we bought our 3rd house, 1500sf, it was finally a stand alone home that had a backyard… a backyard! I was so thrilled, and something as simple as outdoor living space felt like a major jackpot for our family. Had we started in a bigger stand alone home, this wouldn’t have made a big impact on us. Even though we finally had a yard, we moved into a 3 bedroom, 1 (yes, ONE) bath house. So again, we weren’t living in the lap of luxury. But moving up to a single family home and having a yard was definitely moving up!

Our 4th house was 1600sf (including the basement) had 4 beds and 2 baths. Even though 1600sf was our biggest house to date, it was a 800sf house and a 800sf basement. The main floor had the living room, eat in kitchen, a bathroom, and two bedrooms all in the small 800sf. While we fit in it ok… it was cramped living. We knew this was a temporary spot for us. But the right price, right location, and a house we could squeeze into made it worth the move!

Lastly, our current 1800sf house is 4 bed, 3 bath and we are very comfortable. Imagine that, a family of 6 living comfortably in 1800sf. So many people start off with their first house being a McMansion. Don’t get me wrong, this is OK. But if you want to invest in real estate on the cheap, and you don’t have unlimited funds, putting yourself through a little bit of un-comfort in the present will help you live more comfortably later on.

While we aren’t sure this is our forever house, we have no reason to move anytime soon. The only regret we have with our previous houses is that we didn’t ever purchase a duplex. When purchasing a duplex as a primary residence you can buy one with as little as 3% down (FHA loan) and that’s a steal. Two properties for one low downpayment (more on that later).  But once we went to a stand alone house and having our own yard, it was too hard to back track to a shared wall and yard. We wish we would have taken slower steps to get to our stand alone house. 🙂

Anyway, this long winded post was all to say, start small, you can always move up to something bigger and better later.

Buying houses, First time homebuyer, Investments, Small living, Smart money