Browse Category by Smart money

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.


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

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.


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

How to control your pre-approval process, and come out ahead.


When you are a part of a gift exchange at work, or with your extended family, and there is a max budget for the amount to be spent on the gift, what happens? Most people feel like the max budget is how much they have to spend. If the budget is $30, most likely everyone spent the full $30. Even if that budget is simply to make sure people don’t over spend, it somehow becomes the minimum budget for most people.

This is what can happen when you get pre-approved for a home loan. You fill out your application, give all the information and documents needed to get pre-approved and you are told the maximum amount you can borrow for your home purchase. I can tell you from first hand experience that a lot of the time, this amount becomes the homebuyer’s budget. But, when getting pre-approved, does the bank take into account how much you want to save towards retirement or  how much you need to save to go on the awesome trip you’ve been planning to Brazil? Nope, they only look at your debt to income ratio, and your credit score (of course there’s more to it, but these are the big ones).

So, should you spend the full amount you can get approved for? Not exactly.

How to get pre-approved safely:

  • Sit down and go over your finances and budgets for each month (if you are purchasing a home with someone, a partner, spouse, friend etc. make sure they are there for this)
  • If you don’t have a budget, make one! Look at your spending from previous months and get an idea of how much you need to get by.
  • Make sure you leave room in your budget for retirement, travel, emergencies, and fun. You don’t want to be “house poor”.
  • Once you have a full understanding of your current finances, figure out how much you feel comfortable spending on a monthly payment for your mortgage.
  • Go into your lender, share with them that you would like to get pre-approved but that you don’t want to know how much you qualify for, but would rather know how much house you can afford with your set monthly payment.

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Be decisive, Buying houses, First time homebuyer, Investments, Planning, Smart money

How to do a real life fixer upper.

After watching season after season, and loving, HGTV’s Fixer Upper I couldn’t help but be critical of the fact that the buyers budgets were just not realistic for the average American. Of course, it’s a show, and I shouldn’t expect full transparency. But after having multiple buyers ask me if they can just “take out an extra loan for repairs on a fixer” I thought it would be good to set the record straight. In this video I go over the most commonly used methods of financing the repairs on a house as well as share a realistic approach that anyone can do, even you!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or would like more clarity on any of the information. Thanks!

Buying houses, First time homebuyer, Fixer Upper, Investments, Smart money