When we got married 14 and a half years ago, I had less than $100 in my bank account. The car I drove was falling apart, but it had dang good gas mileage. We worked early morning custodial jobs at our university before class. We were love struck poor college kids with big dreams. 

14 years later we bought our dream home putting 51% down, and we have hopes to pay it off within 5 years. I’m sharing a bit more about our journey from point A to point B (more like A to J) in a series sponsored by John Hancock. John Hancock offers financial strategies for people. They can help you work out a plan for your future. It’s something that would have been so helpful for us early on. 

Over the years there are a handful of highlights to our story that I think got us here. 

Embracing the poor

Early on in our marriage we learned a lot through trial and error. We tried to be smart and we did our best to follow some of the financial rules that seemed most obvious. Such as avoid debt. Even if that meant postponing my big of having a fancy car. In fact, I had pictures of a Toyota Celica pinned to my cubicle to motivate me during one of my telesales jobs. I never wound up getting that dream car, or the next, but it was ok. My husband and I knew what was most important about our cars was that they were reliable, then that they had good gas mileage. 

Our kitchen set when we first got married was literally a cardboard box with two folding camping chairs we got as a wedding gift. Later we were gifted an old table from my husband’s grandparents and we were so thankful. 

Living below our means

We barely made over minimum wage working between classes. It was like this for a good 3 years. One thing we did during this time was keep a strict budget and keep track of every little thing we spent money on. We put cash in an envelope for each spending category: Food, toiletries, entertainment and so on. Anything we had left over at the end of the month we could save or splurge. More often we saved. It wasn’t much at first; just a few dollars here and there. But eventually we were able to save more and more. As our incomes increased we tried to keep our expenses about the same. 

We continued to try to do this as much as we could through the years, eventually being able to live off of one income and mostly save the other. About four years into our marriage we bought our first home. A condo in a little town called Springville, UT. Everyone was talking about investing in real estate. The marker was booming and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to afford a place if we waited. Unfortunately we bought the place right before the market crash, then moved across the country to Austin, TX when I got a job as a reporter. We briefly tried to sell the condo with no luck, and instead decided to rent it out. 

Learning from our mistakes

You’d think this was a great investment but our rent didn’t even cove our mortgage. We spent years pouring money into that place and never wound up making enough to cover the mortgage + HOA fees each month. Not to mention repairs. To this day my husband says buying that place was our worst financial decision, and I think it’s made him adverse to moving and real estate purchases in general. 

Eventually things turned around and we were able to sell it before buying this home, adding a decent chunk to our savings that maybe almost covers everything we poured into it for 10 years.

Although we had no way of knowing the market would turn, I think that “bad” decision helped us make better ones going forward.

We also learned a lesson about buying cars the hard way. In college we made a decision to take our a loan for one of our cars right before I graduated college. We needed a reliable car so at the time it seemed like a smart decision but it took longer to pay off than we anticipated and we wound up paying way too much interest. Going forward we’ve always saved and paid cash for our cars. Never spending money on credit cards we didn’t intend to pay off at the end of the month. Continuing to live below our means in case one of us lost our jobs (which has also happened before).

Learning from others

Neither of us had wealthy parents or some fancy upbringing. In fact, we’re constantly in awe of how much more our kids have than we ever did. I remember my parents laughing when I asked how much was in my college savings account. It wasn’t something they were able to plan for. 

We’ve had to learn a lot as we go. As a wedding gift I believe, someone gave us a small book about financial wealth. Early on that helped us set our framework about the way we’d live. Thankfully we both agreed we’d do our best to stay out of debt and keep our expenses as low as possible. Over the years we’ve read some other books, and done our own research about money. But sometimes it’s really nice to just talk to someone. 

I recently had a chat with a John Hancock financial advisor and she was able to help me distinguish the difference between some things I’d been confused about, and after that conversation I was able to flush out some of my other financial goals for this year. 

New goals

First up I want to open a specific long-term savings account for each of my kids. They already have regular savings but I’d like to open some with higher yield returns. I still haven’t decided yet if these will be IRAs or 529 college savings plans (or both) but I plan to figure that out this year and do that. 

Next, I want to make sure my husband and I are maxing out our retirement accounts as best as we can. I remember taking a personal finance class in college and thinking I needed to open a retirement account ASAP. Unfortunately it took me awhile to get around to it, but I did do it before I turned 30. Now I want to make sure I contribute as much as I can this year. 

Finally, I have a goal to pay our one loan (this mortgage) off within 5 years. It’s ambitious but I think it’s possible. The main reason I’d like to do that is because property taxes here are really high. Almost mortgage high. Thing is I’d like to be able to comfortably pay it down by 1/5. Comfortably being the key word. We’ll see if we get there. 

I’m planning to keep you posted each month in this series. As well as share some things I’m learning along the way. 

I’d love to know what your goals are for this year or the future. Stating them out loud helps, and I’d love to be your sounding board. 

Simba and Mufasa in the live action lion king having a father son chat.

If there’s any Disney live action remake I’ve been equal parts excited and terrified for it’s The Lion King. The 1994 version is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I just need to get that out there before I dive into this spoiler-free review because yes, it does affect my opinion of the remake…. read the rest.

We are finally getting our 2nd Black Disney Princess. A black Ariel! And this time we may actually get to see her face on the screen for more than 22 minutes (Tiana, I got you!). When I first heard Disney was doing a live action version of The Little Mermaid I let out an exasperated… read the rest.

My sweet boy I owe you an apology. I’m sorry it’s been three months since your birthday and I’m finally sitting down to write you a celebration letter. I’m sorry you were bumped from being my sweet youngest baby to being a big brother, a new house, and tossed into kindergarten all in one year…. read the rest.

Mother and daughter Disney bound Dumbo as Timothy Mama Jumbo and Dumbo

“Mom why are they all black?” My oldest daughter said with a confused and concerned tone. “Not brown like us but just all black, and no faces?” The 1941 version of Dumbo in its day was an animation masterpiece. A feature length film with talking animals. Today we can see it for all its flaws…. read the rest.

Isn’t it crazy how our first impressions of someone can be completely wrong? I’ve had people tell me I look more like a Keisha than a Jennifer (what?!). I’ve seen mouths drop when I state that I graduated from BYU and yes, we’re Mormon (though technically not called that anymore). We’ve all had our share of… read the rest.

We kicked off our Summer Disney movie series with the 2019 live action version of Aladdin, next up is Toy Story 4. When I first heard about a Toy Story 4 I rolled my eyes. Really? Another one? Toy Story 3 ended so well, and I didn’t see the point in another. The trailer threw me… read the rest.

I got to visit Toy Story Land on a press junket trip this week and I brought my girls along. While I shared our adventures on Instagram I was so surprised how many people responded not knowing this place existed or where it was. I’m here to break it down for ya today folks and… read the rest.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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From Homeschool to Public School – We Made It!
Tips for visiting Walt Disney World with an Infant, a happy baby riding a Walt Disney World ride.
Don’t Wait to Take Your Infant to Walt Disney World
Creating With Kids (DIY) Disney Motherhood Pregnancy & Baby
Simba and Mufasa in the live action lion king having a father son chat.
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Mother and daughter Disney bound Dumbo as Timothy Mama Jumbo and Dumbo
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