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Posts Tagged ‘dream house’

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 our lack of wealth

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 dream 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. 

We weren’t in a rush to have “nice things” during or right after college, but we hoped to get there eventually.

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 out 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. 

.I was going through some old papers when I stumbled upon a small notebook we’ve had for years. I opened it and flipped through the pages to see our newlywed budget from nearly 14 years ago.

My husband had an athletic scholarship for so we had a huge discount on rent, and we tried to be as frugal as we could in other ways.

from humble beginnings to dream home: interracial couple newlyweds

Even back then we were extremely aware of money. Not that we had a lot, or much at all. But we were careful not to spend more than we had, and to save what we could. Even if that was just a few dollars a month.

We would separate our money from each budget category and put the cash for the month into an envelope. When money for food was gone it was gone, and we had to eat what was already in the house until the budget reset the next month.

I created a regular meal plan for us to make sure we stayed under budget. There was Sonic 5 burgers for $5 night. We split that third burger, and we rarely splurged on fries.

There was $5 pizza night. And we ate a lot of ramen noodles and grilled cheese.

At the end of the month whatever was left over we could use as fun money, or save.

I remember being so excited when I’d saved enough to buy us our first couch–A futon from the local thrift store. It was no more than $40.

The first automatic payment I set up was to ourselves… A $75 auto draft from our checking account to our savings account. We still have it set up to this day.

Though we no longer use envelopes, and our food budget is much larger than $150, we’ve continued to live by the same disciplines for years. Living below what we make. Saving everything we can.

I think part of that had to do with having a scarcity complex.–Being so worried we would run out of money.

When we transferred schools, lost our rent discount and were both finishing school. We applied for any job we could get, and we were excited when we both got on campus jobs as custodians. Excited to earn on the “higher end of pay”–Something like $7/hr. We earned and saved extra money by donating blood plasma on a regular basis–Two to three times a week, or as much as they allowed. The cookies and juice at the plasma center were a midday meal I looked forward to.

How a leap of faith brought us together and made me believe some things may be fate.

There were times where both of us had jobs, just one of us had a job, and for some scary moments when neither of us were working.

We learned to live extremely conservatively. And as our salaries increased, our lifestyle, for the most part, stayed the same.

Afraid that something could go wrong and we may not always be able to afford a car payment, we saved and paid cash for our cars (except one time, and after that we said never again).

We use credit cards for rewards points but pay them off every single month. And we try our best to live off one income, and save the other.

Discipline is doing what you want. Even when you don't want to. Click To Tweet

When I set out for the goal of finding our dream home I was dumbstruck by the prices of what we wanted. It seemed unwise to set a goal so high. Especially when we were used to spending so much less. And I didn’t want to be “house poor.”–Where we’re barely able to afford our home, much less anything else to go with it.

But I thought what if we saved enough to pay for a lot of it up front… That would change everything.

Our payments would be comfortable.  And we’d prove to ourselves that we are able to afford our dream and continue to live off similar monthly bills.

We were paying extra on our current home, and those extra payments, along with fees on another property (we’ve since sold) add up to a similar monthly expense.

I did a lot of math and discovered that saving to put half down would be that magic number. To upgrade our home but not our bills.

Now we’re less than three weeks away from closing. Almost across the finish line. We will spend one last Christmas in our beautiful house where we’ve made a home, then ring in a new year at our new place.

It still doesn’t feel real. I don’t know if that feeling will hit once we sign on the dotted line, or when the moving truck pulls away. But those cute college students who split a third cheeseburger every Monday night have gone so much further than I’d ever dreamed. And I’m so proud of them.

So we’re moving next month.

I can say that now. Yes, let’s take a moment to freak out about that.

We still don’t have a closing date set in stone. The builder seems to think it’ll be mid-December. Mid to me means December 15th, but I haven’t gotten word that we’re 45 days out just yet. 45 days out would put us at December 24th. So I’m predicting it’ll be more like late December. Maybe even the last day of December.

Regardless we’ve decided we’re spending one last Christmas in our beloved home here (albeit with plenty of boxes) and then we’ll ring in the new year in our new home. We’ll list this one for sale hopefully the first week of January.

I’m beginning to freak out, just a tad. About many many things. Mainly these seven things:

I haven’t started packing

At all (is that terrible?). However, I have been working with a decluttering coach and going through my house category by category and eliminating about half of our stuff. So far I’ve done clothes, books, papers, movies, pet and craft stuff. I still have a looooong way to go but my plan is to do one to two categories a week until mid-December. Then frantically pack everything else in about 2 weeks. I’m hopeful packing will be easy since I’ll have already gotten rid of so much stuff and I’ll be leaving behind everything we want to pack.

I’m worried I’ll miss something

The house is really coming along and it’s finally starting to feel real. We have trim, tile, and paint and cabinets. We just got countertops too. I’m trying to drive out and see it a couple times a week instead of just once a week now. There are still things we need to decide on and I’m worried I’ll miss something.

There are tons of trees in our backyard but I’d love some of the brush closer to the house to be cleared out around the oak trees and set ourselves up for what we envision our backyard to be. Our lot goes back 875ft so we could literally camp a ways back and not see the house. But closer to our home we have big plans. As septic and propane tanks go in and the yard gets done, I want to make sure we don’t overlook anything inside or outside of the house.

Carrying two mortgages

Though we’re extremely fortunate to put a down payment on our new home without using equity from our current home, our savings will be taking a HUGE hit. So we’re trying to find that delicate balance of achieving my goal of paying half up front. But also still having extra funds for emergencies, new things for the house, and potentially two mortgages for a few months. Our market seems to be doing well, so hopefully it’ll stay that way as we prepare to sell and we can replenish our savings once we sell.

We have no place to sit or eat

Our kitchen table is literally broken, and our super dark but comfy living room furniture is going up into our theater room. That means downstairs we don’t have seating. I *did* order a camel colored sofa I love and worked with a designer at a Pottery Barn to pick out chairs to go with it but they won’t arrive until the end of January.

Via Pottery Barn: My new couch looks kinda like this

Via Pottery Barn: I ordered two of these chairs but they’re a little darker and hopefully super durable

Even when they do though, there will definitely be no eating on those pricey pretty pieces of seating. So I need to decide on bar stools and a kitchen table stat. Which brings me to my next freak out.

Designing and Decorating

I did mention how this totally makes me crazy right? I’m terrified all of my design choices and I am not skilled in this area at all. However, the last few weeks I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of HGTV and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand things or at least what I like.

Now I’m looking at pendent lights for the kitchen and searching for the perfect kitchen table and barstools. It’s finally getting FUN since I’m more aware of what I like but things add up fast, and I am stressed about choosing the right thing. I think one important fact I need to remember is it all doesn’t have to be done right away. I can take my time. Maybe we will even move our current table so we can eat someplace and I won’t feel rushed into choosing something.

Deciding on this space

For the most part I’ve stopped second guessing my design choices. I’m more or less planning fun ways to work with what I’ve chosen. However, we have a big cut out in the corner of family room that I initially thought would be the fireplace. Turns out the fireplace isn’t there and our TV won’t fit in the niche. So we are moving the large TV upstairs in the game room and the TV from our bedroom will go above the fireplace and we will make a nice cabinet/floating shelves situation there. OR build in our TV there in a amour kind of thing. Here’s what I’m thinking right now:

I’ve changed my mind about this little area no less than 7 times. But I do think I like this. I like the idea of hiding my TV but I also like the idea of displaying photos on these shelves. People say a mantle is fun to decorate but I think this area would be too. If you have suggestions please let me know!

TIME

It feels like just a month ago we were picking out our lot and deciding if we were doing this. I can’t believe how quickly this process has flown by (having a newborn in the middle of it all helps). This is the busy time of year for bloggers, which I’m so thankful for. But I’m still getting used to a baby, limited sleep and being a mom of three. Our schedules are jam packed as it is before adding in the move and all these other decisions and loan processing things before then. Plus there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas to plan for. I do love being busy so these next couple months are sure to fly by. I just hope I won’t be too banged up on the other side of it all.

Wish me luck! And if I seem like even more of a hot mess than usual… Well, now you’ll know why.

What do you get when you order a jumbo box of Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels from Amazon and accidentally place the order twice? In my case, extra moving boxes and move-out cleaning supplies!

Yea, you read right. Last week I mentioned how anxious I was about a few things that were still up in the air. Selling our condo, an award nomination and a pending offer on what’s to be my dream house. Well, we wound up being three for three on good news. Though I’m wanting to knock on wood before we celebrate the selling of our condo until this Friday when we close.

As my husband put it, we’re up three on game four in the finals, but he doesn’t want to celebrate just yet.

I am celebrating my huge award honor (post coming on that very soon) and the fact that we are UNDER CONTRACT on a new home. WHAT?!

Almost exactly five years ago I snapped this picture of my kiddos in front of our soon-to-be dream home. I couldn’t imagine moving again. In fact I’m pretty sure I promised my husband I wouldn’t. I wound up leaving my full-time job at the news station and planned to be at home with the kids and chill and whatnot. Ya, know, keep blogging and see where that took me. Never did I dream my side hustle would turn into something so much more.

Then you probably remember the moment I announced meeting Oprah changed my life, and it’s time I let my dreams get even bigger.

I honestly didn’t even get a chance to put this thing on my vision board. But I woke up every day dreaming about it, and went to bed thinking about it, and I knew this could happen. The hardest part would be convincing my husband. Well, turns out if you show him enough pictures of man caves and third car garages, and all of the things you can do with a huge backyard, even he too can be a believer.

There will most definitely be way more updates to fill you in on during the process. While this isn’t our first rodeo, it’s going to be a lot different given how much more space we will have, and the fact that in the middle of it all we’ll be adding a plus one. We likely won’t be moving until November at the earliest, and I’m preparing myself for potential weather delays that could even put us in after the New Year, so we’ll see.

So for now, all of these Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels will be used as I nest for our baby girl (Sneaky) coming in just a couple of months, and you know I’ll be folding the boxes for packing later this year. I should make some kind of spring cleaning/baby nesting list but I usually prefer to just go with what the urges tell me to do when the mood strikes. I’m hoping to clean out my daughter’s closet, get rid of the clothes that no longer fit her, and make some room for her little sister to share. Then clean out the cupboards and wipe everything down before adding bottles and such.

Since I ordered extra, we’re also planning to donate some extra paper towels and cleaning supplies to some refugees in our area. And then whatever we still have I’m sure will come in handy to tackle the many many messes big and small that come from kids and babies. Super soaking paper towels always get some use around here. To help stock-up for your own home, right now you can head to Amazon and use the promo code: “5QUICKBOUNTY” for $5 off your order. At check out, don’t forget to apply the extra $2 off coupon – that’s a total savings of $7!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bounty. The opinions and text are all mine.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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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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