PoniesandFIREjr is 4 years old and our house has slowly transformed into what feels like an explosion of toys, outgrown clothes, shoes and approximately 10,000 art projects. I’ve tried to stay on top of his clothing and have donated some stuff over the years to a local charity to gives clothing free to families in need in our county, but I have had this nagging feeling that we could be recouping some costs by reselling and also giving unused items a new purpose with a new family.
My challenge to myself this month was to sell something (anything!) out of our house and last night the mission was accomplished! PoniesandFIREjr’s crib and changing table have a new home and we have $120 from the sale!
Here’s how I accomplished this:
1. I located all hardware, manuals, instructions and warranty cards that I had obsessively saved in a folder.
2. We cleaned the pieces to look their absolute best and took quality photos in good light.
3. I looked at similar pieces for sale on Facebook Marketplace* and Letgo and then listed both as a package for slightly under what I saw other items listed for.
4. I was quickly flooded with messages asking if they were still available, mostly from Facebook Marketplace, but a few from Letgo as well and I tried to respond to all questions promptly.
5. One week later = SOLD!
I’ve already listed the baby monitor and an old light fixture we recently replaced and we will see if we can get those gone too and a little cash in our pockets. What I’m learning quickly is that baby and kid items are hot commodities on FB Marketplace.
My next struggle is toys. PoniesandFIREjr has a ton of toys, some of which he’s starting to outgrow, so I’d like to move these out of our house. My personal hang up is that most of these were purchased by family and friends as gifts and it feels a little weird to sell things we were given. I’m not totally sure the etiquette on this one, any readers have thoughts?
*I’m loving using Facebook Marketplace so I can see if the potential buyers and I have mutual friends and I can stalk their profiles before meeting with them. Seems less sketchy than craigslist. Your mileage may vary…
I love to garden. I had a small garden as a kid growing up in Vermont and I’ve kept a small garden going the last few years at our home. PoniesandFIREjr loves to pick cherry tomatoes off the plant and eat them and is a boss at helping with the watering.
Last year we did tons of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and a watermelon. I also have a bunch of black raspberry bushes and apple trees. Gardening is fun, it’s heathy, but if I really assess the finances of it, it’s probably not saving me much because I easily spend over $100 on started plants each year and have kept it pretty small.
With this year’s plan to get more serious on our finances, I decided to have a better plan for my garden and to start my own plants from seeds. I looked at local prices and then ended up ordering seeds through Amazon. I chose the Heirloom Vegetable Garden Seed Collection – Assortment of 15 Non-GMO, Easy Grow, Gardening Seeds: Carrot, Onion, Tomato, Pea, More from Mountain Valley Seed Company (https://www.amazon.com/stores/node/9461715011?_encoding=UTF8&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=Mountain%20Valley%20Seed%20Company&ref_=w_bl_hsx_s_lg_web_9461715011). This plethora of seeds cost me $20 and shipping was free.
Then I picked up a bag of Miracle-Gro 75078500 Seed Starting Potting Mix Bag, 8-Quart for $12.
Last night my assistant, poniesandFIREjr, and I went to work and started some cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet peppers, lettuce, peas, watermelon and cantaloupe seeds. I’m using egg cartons and containers we already had in the house, so no other expenses involved.
We will probably start a few more plants inside next week and then wait and plant things like carrots and beets directly in the garden next month. If it all goes as planned, we will have about 4x the number of plants in our garden this summer, for about a third of the cost, just by starting our own plants!
It’s also super fun kid activity, once I got over the spilled dirt in my dining room. PoniesandFIREjr keeps checking the plants, he can’t wait to see them start growing!
You just can’t have everything you want. – Peter McWilliams
That is a phrase that has peppered the last 5 years of my life. I struggle with wanting so many things, not necessarily material items, but I find myself as one of those people that never have enough hours in the day to do everything I want.
I love my job. I love my side business. I love spending time with my family. I love spending time with my friends. I love working out. I love traveling. I love staying home. I love a good book and a glass of wine. I love hours in the library. I love napping. I love being outside on our property gardening or playing with my dogs. I love hiking. I love horse shows. I love camping. I love writing. I hate/love running. I am simultaneously torn between wanting to be hugely successful in my side business while also wanting to give it all up, live in an RV and travel the country before poniesandFIREjr is too old, as well as about eight other equally differing dreams.
Where do I fit it all in? Right now I don’t. I try to prioritize, I try to manage, I try to carve out time for all the “important” things, but constantly struggle with feeling like I’m not giving my 100% to my job or parenting or my husband. It feels like a big juggling act that (mostly) works, but is unnecessarily stressful.
That is my why.
Right now, I feel like I want to do all these things, but I can’t help but wonder what would shift in importance to me, if money wasn’t a factor. I love my job, but if I didn’t NEED it, how would I feel? What would change? If our house was paid off, if we had “enough” to sustain ourselves, if we had passive income, how would my priorities change?
This week is National Library Week and in honor of that, I’m sharing my newly renewed love of libraries with you all.
As a kid, I would go once a week to the library in the summer time. I loved to read and it was a good waste of a few hours for my mom to occupy me. As I got older, she’d drop me off for a few hours while she ran errands or did some grocery shopping.
As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I am embarrassed to admit that I have not been in my current town’s library, except when voting, since moving here in 2011. This is extra embarrassing, as the library is legit five minutes from our house. That horrible crime has been rectified and I am now a proud library card carrying member of my community. They even gave me a free tee shirt when I signed up!
PoniesandFIREjr is 4 years old and the two of us now have a weekly date to the library on Monday nights when they stay open late. We’ve gone the past three weeks and we are loving it! The great things I remember about libraries from my childhood are the same and I have found some exciting new free stuff in ours too!
Here are my six reasons to check out your local library for some FREE entertainment:
1. This is obvious, but BOOKS! I LOVE to read and if I’m being honest, I probably qualify as a book hoarder. The library gives me an unending supply of free books for myself and bedtime stories for PoniesandFIREjr.
2. My library has hundreds of movies on DVDs available to check out. This week we borrowed Cars 2. Last week was Lady and the Tramp. It will take poniesandFIREjr years to get through them all!
3. On the same vein, DVDs of TV shows and stuff Mr. poniesandFIRE and I would want to watch too! Seriously – everything from Friends, to Breaking Bad to anything in between.
4. My library has puzzles you can check out! I have no idea if this is a normal thing or not, but how cool! I love puzzles, as does my son, but I have zero desire to ever pay money for them or have them permanently take up space in my house. PROBLEM SOLVED!
5. My library hosts free community events for kids. A couple weeks ago, they did an egg dyeing party for kids on a Friday afternoon before Easter. We missed that one, but I can see us hitting up these free events in the coming months.
6. Librarians are awesomely nice! Our local librarian lets poniesandFIREjr run the scanner himself to check out his own books and movies and he thinks that is incredibly cool. They also give great suggestions of books we might love. Last, but not least, they sometimes give out free snacks! So many wins!
All in all, there are so many things to love about libraries, most of which is that they are in EVERYONE’S budget! In honor of National Library Week, take some time to swing by your local library and check out all the amazing free stuff they have to offer.
If there is one thing that following the snowball method of the Dave Ramsey plan taught us, it’s that small changes can quickly snowball into an avalanche over time. When we were in the thick of baby step 2, nothing in our budget was above discussion and possibly cutting. Nothing was off limits, if it could save us money.
Now that we are shooting for 2025 FIRE, we are returning to that mindset.
Here are a few easy changes we have implemented in the last few weeks:
1. Reduced DISH. We were paying around $93/month and we called, reduced our plan and are at $75/month now. Savings: $18/month or $216 per year
2. Aldi’s! Our town JUST got an Aldi’s a few months ago and we are hooked. We were spending probably around $150 per week in household items, dog and cat supplies and groceries. We are averaging $115 per week now, just by switching grocery stores and sticking to a meal plan. Savings: $140/month or $1,680 per year
3. Reducing heat. We heat primarily through a pellet stove. Our house is 2800 square feet and over 100 years old, so not super-efficient. We also have propane. We typically keep our thermostat at 65 degrees and our pellet stove at one down from the highest setting. Now that we are at the end of winter (said slightly tongue in cheek as we got 6” of snow last night), we are dropping the thermostat to 64 degrees and the pellet stove down one more level. Savings: To be determined
4. Unplugging. Our electric bill averages around $120-$130/month in the winter. A good chunk of this obviously comes from our pellet stove which runs 24/7 in the winter, as the auger is electric driven. That being said, we have never been great at unplugging unused items (cell phone chargers, coffee pots, toasters, microwaves, etc). Our new mission is to unplug electric items not in use and see if that makes a discernable difference. Savings: To be determined
5. No more bottled water. I know it’s a waste of plastic and money, but every day, I bring a bottle of water with me and recycle the bottle after. I can easily fill a glass of water at work, so there is no reason for this waste. Savings: $0.50/day or $130 per year
These small changes are not going to change us into overnight millionaires. However, even if reducing the heat and unplugging devices saves us NOTHING, the other three changes will save us over $2,000 per year, with very little effort on our part. Over the next seven years, (a.k.a. - our goal timeline for reaching FIRE), that’s $14,000! Not an insignificant number at all.
It doesn’t stop there, either. If we use that $2,000 effectively, by either reducing debt or investing, it grows further!
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso
I am what Dave Ramsey would label “the nerd.” An ideal day for me for sure includes doing some planning, making a list, maybe some research. With this comes the love for goals, which it turns out, is immensely important in achieving a good financial situation. It’s pretty rare to stumble into wealth and those that do still need goals and plans or else they quickly find themselves stumbling out of wealth.
So what are our goals?
We want to be in a better financial position. We want to have the freedom to support ourselves, if one or both of us want to quit, go part time or explore a whole new career. Or sit around and do nothing for six months.
This isn’t a goal though, this is a wish.
A goal needs a deadline. When do we want to reach this ideal financial position? A goal needs to be measureable. How much is enough?
Well, for starters, we’re going to use the 4% rule to determine our number. What’s the 4% rule? Mr.Money Moustache explains it best here- http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/05/29/how-much-do-i-need-for-retirement/
First part of setting goals: Measurable
Our proposed monthly budget in retirement
Property taxes: $500 (we are assuming we stay in our current home for planning purposes)
Dining out: $100
Insurance/Healthcare: $400 (At this point, who in the USA really knows future costs here…)
Vehicle maintenance: $125
Cell phones: $125
Mr. poniesandFIRE fun: $200 (his hobbies are clearly cheaper than mine)
Ponies: $800 (yup, ponies are pricey. This is a conservative number for keeping 1 show horse for myself)
Savings: $150 (Building in extra safety)
poniesandFIRE jr: $150 (if we reach this before he’s grown, he may want to do sports/activities/etc, so needs to be budgeted for)
Annually = $48,900
This budget clearly has a ton that, by hardcore FIRE folk’s standards, could be cut. Eating out? PONIES? Travel? Easily could go, but that’s ok. We don’t NEED those things, but if we’re designing our ideal life plan, I think it’s important to include the things we’d hope to have.
Next, I round up. I don’t want to be so tight that a down market means we can’t travel for two years. So $48,300 becomes $52,000 for the sake of (more) safety.
$52,000 x 25 = $1,300,000. Whoa. Our goal net worth is pretty huge.
Here’s the time for a serious self-reality check. It has taken us about 15-20 years to amass our current net worth of $370k. Now, some of those years were “wasted” in college or working really low income jobs, and most of our wealth has been garnered in the last 5 years, but if we have about a million dollars left until we reach our goal, it’s time to get serious if it’s not going to take us another 30 years to get this done!
Second part of setting goals – Timeline
When do we want to hit our goal?
Well, let’s talk this through a little. Right now, Mr. poniesandFIRE and I both work 50+ hour weeks. With my side business, there are times when I average only 1 or 2 days off per MONTH.
That was all well and good before we had poniesandFIRE jr, but I don’t want us to miss his whole childhood as workaholics. I want to reach FIRE before he’s in high school and I want to work smarter, rather than longer hours, so during this time we aren’t unavailable to him or missing out.
Ten years seems like a reasonable timeline. Insanely hard and almost impossible, but somehow also reasonable. I don’t want to be reasonable though. I want to push our limits and crush our goals. I want to have the options in our lives that Financial Independence offers.
So seven years it is. Seven years to reach a net worth of 1.3 million. Let’s say by December 2025. Here we go and welcome to our journey.
In 2010, my fiancé and I were living the blissful “normal” life. We were dual income, renting an apartment, putting away maybe 3% into 401ks and thinking we were doing things right. I also had a student loan still hanging around, credit cards, vehicle payments and no real savings to speak of.
Then I fell in love with a foreclosure, a huge old farmhouse on 5+ acres. We went to look at it and I knew it was “the one” as we drove in the driveway.
After a long process of negotiating with the bank and waiting for our mortgage to go through, we finally closed on our house in January of 2011. There were about three days of happiness followed by a blind panic as we found the pipes leaked, it cost $300+ per month to heat the house and the finances were TIGHT. We put very little down on the house and rolled some expenses into the closing, leaving us with a mortgage of $178,000 on a house we bought for $162,000. We had taken out a 30 year mortgage at 4.75% and 30 years of payments was starting to feel what I imagined drowning to feel like.
At the same time we were trying to plan a wedding and were lost about how to stay on top of all the bills. We were using credit cards to get the house livable and wondering how in debt we were going to be after a wedding too.
I found myself in front of a computer and typing in “how do I pay off my debt?” into google. And then came Dave Ramsey.
I poured through the website, I devoured the baby steps and I started listening to the show daily on my drive to work. Mr. poniesandFIRE thought I lost my mind, I was so hooked. I ordered the FPU home study and Mr. poniesandFIRE agreed to watch the DVDs and follow the plan.
What came next was cash flowing a wedding in the end of 2011 and then going full tilt on baby step 2 in 2012. We paid off three or four small credit cards, my student loan and then the vehicles. Mr. poniesandFIRE worked a ton of overtime and I started a side business. It felt like nothing got done on our house that year, but so much got cleaned up on our finances.
1. Budgeting – we always had a general plan for our money, but it wasn’t always accurate and we got off track on things like groceries. We got serious on tracking our spending and as soon as we got paid, we sent payments to debt rather than wait and watch the money disappear elsewhere.
2. Working together – doing this year one of our marriage really built a team between us in terms of our finances. We had the normal disagreements, but having a common goal made all those disagreements easier to get through. It was “us versus the problem” rather than me versus Mr. poniesandFIRE.
3. Things got streamlined. It was like minimalism for our finances. Small monthly expenses were cut, such as subscriptions we barely used. Each debt that was paid off was one less bill to pay each month. It seemed like just having less bills to manage was weight off our shoulders.
Where We Are Now
In 2017, we decided we needed to refinance our house. The 30 year term still felt overwhelming to us. Paying off a house early is a touchy subject in the FIRE community, but for us, it feels like something we wanted to do sooner rather than later. We refinanced with a local credit union to a 10 year 3.25% fixed rate and currently owe $136k. Each monthly payment now makes so much more headway than the 30 year did, even after being six + years in and making some extra principal payments.
During the process we had an appraisal done on the house and its current value has grown to around $249k. That gives us a positive equity of around $112k to date.
We have one used paid in full vehicle (Subaru) and a 2016 diesel truck that is financed with positive equity at 1%. The truck earns an income as part of my side business, which partially justifies the payment, but at the same time, it is hanging over our head and likely will be up for conversation soon on if we pay it off sooner. Obviously purchasing the truck after paying off all our debt was a step away from Dave Ramsey, but personal finance, is, above all else, personal.
The intention is to keep this truck as long as possible. There will be no trading it in for something newer and no more vehicle payments after this one.
I am putting 13% into my 401k with a 4% match. Mr. poniesandFIRE is putting away 10% with a 3% match. Current combined values is around $170k.
We just started a 529 for our son, with under $1,000 currently.
We have a fully funded emergency fund at $10,000 and additional cash saved for some small home improvement projects.
Current net worth (includes vehicles and equipment, pony, real estate equity, investments, cash) = $370k