I fell down the personal finance rabbit hole after we bought our house and I looked at how long 30 years was! I panicked and found myself googling “how to get out of debt faster,” which brought me to the world of Dave Ramsey.
If you are new to trying to take control of your finances or looking for some new motivation, here are my 5 favorites!
1. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (www.amazon.com/Total-Money-Makeover-Classic-Financial/dp/1595555277/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533906756&sr=8-1&keywords=total+money+makeover)
This book started us on our journey and I loved it. We are not super religious, so we glossed over those references, but it really does have common sense suggestions. If you feel overwhelmed, read this and follow it. It is a great game plan to get started and feel the power of making progress. Commit to follow it for six months and see how much your life can change!
2. Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan (www.amazon.com/Retire-Inspired-Its-Financial-Number/dp/1937077810/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907192&sr=1-1&keywords=retire+inspired+chris+hogan)
Mr. Hogan is under the Dave Ramsey umbrella, so a good part of this book echoes the words of Dave Ramsey, but takes it to the why and what of retirement. I loved the sentiment that retirement is not related to age, but instead your financial position and this steered me towards looking not only at our current budget, but what our budget will look like in 10, 15, 20 years.
3. The Simple Path to Weath by JL Collins (www.amazon.com/Simple-Path-Wealth-financial-independence/dp/1533667926/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907254&sr=1-1&keywords=the+simple+path+to+wealth+by+j.l.+Collins)
After falling down the Dave Ramsey rabbit hole for a few years, I started to branch out and become interested in other ideas. This book was the KEY to creating a plan for our investing finances beyond “put 15% in your 401k.” I wanted more, I wanted to optimize and I wanted the security of financial independence and this book laid it out for me.
4. Mr. Money Moustache’s blog (www.mrmoneymustache.com/)
Not a book, but a blog with more information than I knew what to do with. I think if I hadn’t started with Dave Ramsey, I would have been overwhelmed and turned off by the extreme ideas there, but following the Dave Ramsey plan was a little extreme and I saw the success from that so taking it a step further seemed reasonable at this point. This blog truly helped me understand the 4% rule and get a handle on what our real “FI” number is.
5. The Frugalwoods blog (www.frugalwoods.com/)
Again, not a book, but a blog, but she also has a book which I also loved (Meet the Frugalwoods). Her story is inspiring and being the same age as me and the fact that she moved about 30 minutes from where I grew up, really is relatable for me. The message of frugality putting them in the position to choose what brings them joy in life and chase that, rather than materialistic goods is fantastic. It has helped me reframe my thoughts on when and how I spend money and what items I need in my house/life.
Dave Ramsey is an advocate for the emergency fund and presses listeners to build up savings when a potential storm is on the horizon. Although we have a nice amount in our baby step 3 pile, I think Mr.PoniesandFIRE and I will be following this advice and boosting our emergency fund.
Mr.PoniesandFIRE works in the railroad industry and his company has had a series of situations that make us a little concerned about possible changes in the company, including annulments and possible layoffs. There are rumors of pink slips and some coworkers below him on the roster are sending out resumes to other railroads. He has enough seniority that we aren’t super concerned, but his company may be facing some EPA fines and/or lawsuits, so we foresee some belt tightening on their end for sure.
If Mr.PoniesandFIRE were to be out of work, we could survive on my income and my business income, but we would need to be more diligent, as it would be very tight. This little bit of fear is pushing me to review the budget and see what we can adjust NOW in order to put ourselves in a more prepared situation.
1. Groceries – we’ve been a little lax about sticking to the budget here and things like beer or a bottle of wine cause us to creep over. Time to stick to under $100/week!
2. Cell phone bill – mine is paid by my work, but Mr.PoniesandFIRE’s could certainly be reduced. Time to investigate!
3. What else can we sell? I have someone interested in my old flute from high school through FB Marketplace. I am supposed to meet them tomorrow, so hopefully that will be gone by the weekend and an extra $100 in our pockets.
Mr.PoniesandFIRE currently has a 40 hour guarantee, even if he’s annulled, so I really am not too worried for the short term, but this is definitely a reminder that even with three stable incomes in our household, there is always reason to keep a good emergency fund and extra incentive to reach FIRE ASAP.
I saw a quote on Instagram this morning about how you don’t pay for things with money, you pay for them with hours of your life. Whoa, what a way to think about purchases.
I’m sitting during my lunch thinking about how many weeks at work of my life my truck purchase was. The answer is way more than I am comfortable with for sure. Then I’m thinking through how many weeks of my life are going to be spent before it’s finally paid off. I love my truck, but I don’t think this is a mistake I will ever repeat. I intend to drive this truck until it falls apart and then my next truck will be paid for in cash and absolutely used.
We are seven years away from our FIRE goal and it just feels like the progress we are making is so slow. The truck feels like a logjam holding back our progress. I’ve been ignoring this debt because of the low interest rate and the fact that we had two important home repairs to make (windows and garage roof), but now that those are done, I WANT IT GONE.
Our current plan is to bank as much cash as we can between now and the end of the year. In the New Year, once we have an idea what we will owe in taxes, we pay it off in full. Worst case scenario, April 2019, no more truck payment.
Then, December 2021, no more house payment.
Then, December 2025, FIRE.
Because I want my hours more than I want more things.
1. Reduce food waste! Last week I was halfway through cooking shrimp when a horse emergency meant it ended up in the trash, as I rushed off to the barn. Horse is ok now, but I wasted like $4-$5 of shrimp. Ugh. I am newly resolved to stick to a meal plan, use food from the garden AND eat up all the leftovers this month.
2. Less splurges on food. July always seems to equal grilling steaks and fancy IPAs in our house. I’m going to try to keep our protein inexpensive and lean, and keep the alcohol purchases cheap to non-existent.
3. Fix our clothes line! I’ve been using our dryer too much, partially because our clothes line outside broke and we haven’t gotten around to fixing it. So that is happening for sure.
4. Stay active on my PoniesandFIRE Instagram account. This doesn’t save us any money, but it definitely is helping me stay motivated.
5. Sell something on FB marketplace. I haven’t listed anything lately and have tons to declutter still!
New month/new goals!
We have a family vacation planned in the first week of December and my big goal this month is to pay that off in full. We have not been on a family vacation that wasn’t for a wedding or to visit family EVER, so even though I feel a little guilty about it, it is time.
After this vacation, we don’t intend to take another big vacation until our house is paid off in FULL.
I am also hoping to squeeze another $200 from the budget to send to PoniesandFIREjr’s 529 account. That would move us into four figures in that account. We don’t plan to go crazy on the 529, at least until we have all our debt gone, but I also don’t want to completely neglect it while we have time on our side.
We spent some time on the 4th driving around some smaller lake homes. There is one for sale currently that, if we sold our home and bought that, would halve our mortgage. It’s on the lake we like, which is a five minute commute for me. It’s only 680 square feet however, which sounds a little insane for 3 people, 2 dogs and a cat to live in. There is some decent outdoor space and we could probably add on a garage and laundry room, but obviously that costs money and would counteract the savings.
I’m really torn on what we should do. I love our house, but it’s huge. I want to downsize and save money and accelerate our journey to FI, but there are so many positives to our home too. Where we are now, we have apple trees, room to garden, room to have chickens. I could add blueberry bushes and a full orchard, if we wanted.
It also is another wrench in the plans that the 58 acres that butts up to our land that I absolutely LOVE and dream of owning, the owners are now putting it up for sale. WHAT DO WE DO?!?!?
If we stay and buy the land, we are 10 years away from FIRE. If we downsize, we could probably do it in 5. Still having a huge mental struggle on what to do…
1. Family hike. We try to do a couple family hikes each spring, summer and fall. PoniesandFIREjr calls it “going exploring.” We bring the dogs, pack snacks and go have an adventure. If we’re not feeling super motivated, we have a ton of walking trails local to us that aren’t too overly difficult. PoniesandFIREjr is also super into maps for some reason, so as he gets a little older, I think we will implement some sort of map in the house where we can mark the hikes we’ve done.
2. Day at the lake. We have a free waterfront area at the lake here in town. PoniesandFIREjr can waste away hours playing in the water and sand. We bring a bucket and some shovels, pack a picnic lunch and we’re good to go.
3. Library time. Our library is super fun. It is dog friendly (seriously, there are dog beds and treats for all visiting pups!) and it’s cool in the summer heat. We will go spend an afternoon or evening picking out a dvd, puzzle or game and two new books for the week. Sometimes we’ll hang out for a while and read. Our librarian lets PoniesandFIREjr use the scanner to check everything out, which he loves.
4. Hit up all the school playgrounds. With school out, we have a couple nice school playgrounds near us that are sitting empty. Since PoniesandFIREjr isn’t in elementary school yet, they’re exciting and new to him! It’s free, it’s easy and when we get bored with one, we try another.
June is rolling along nicely and the black cloud of taxes, car repairs, mower repairs, etc. seems to be behind us. We went over budget on Father’s Day yesterday, but Mr. PoniesandFIRE had an above average check this week, so it balances out. Obviously would have been better to stay on budget and use the extra in a better way, but we had such a nice family day yesterday that it’s hard to feel too down about it.
We sold some DVDs last week for $30, which was nice. It had been a few weeks since anything sold, but now I’m fired up again to list more stuff. I’m trying to stay on the de-cluttering bandwagon!
I found out we have a “Once Upon a Child” store nearby, so I’m thinking I may bring some of our son’s outgrown clothes there this weekend and see how that works. I have a few pieces that he outgrew before even wearing and I’ve been trying to sell them through FB marketplace with no luck.
We paid a little extra with the regular truck payment, which was exciting. We’ve been basically ignoring the truck payment and letting it roll along, but now I’m itching to pay the damn thing off. I love the truck, it makes me money, but I am getting really sick of the payment.
TIME TO KILL THE TRUCK LOAN! :)
This is our financial plan for June:
Mortgage (includes taxes and insurance) - $1,950
Truck payment, plus extra: $1,000
Electric: $100 (hoping we are under budget here)
Spending cash: $50
Father’s Day: $25
Expected income: $6,600 (This is an estimate as we are never sure how many hours Mr. PoniesandFIRE will get per week)
Extra snowball: $1,592
Where is our extra snowball going in June? Towards a family vacation we are taking at the end of November 2018. We have not been on a real family vacation since 2015, and even then, that was only because of a family member’s destination wedding we attended. My goal is to have the vacation paid off in full by the middle of July, then we will go back to saving money for home improvement projects to prepare to sell in 2019 AND towards paying off our truck.
**Note for new readers** Yes, we still have a truck loan, our only BS2 debt left. We have fully funded BS3 and are putting 15% towards BS4. We intend to now go back and pay off the truck, but it wasn’t a priority as it was purchased for my side business and was an expense for the business. I know it’s out of order for hardcore DR fans, but that’s where we are putting the “personal” in personal finance. ;)
In 2011, Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I bought a house while newly engaged, in every wrong way possible. It was a foreclosure that needed some major work. We barely put down a down payment and what we did put down was mostly from a 401k loan that we took out. We rolled closing costs into our mortgage and actually mortgaged more than the purchase price.
We took out a 30 year mortgage with a 4.75% interest rate. We dropped probably another $8k the first few months living there, when we found we had burst pipes from them being improperly winterized and that we needed a pellet stove to heat the place, plus a variety of other expenses to make the home livable (read, NOT nice).
It was probably two months later that I found myself in front of a computer googling “how to get out of debt,” and came across Dave Ramsey. That was our real entry in personal finance and we then cash flowed a wedding, paid off credit cards, student loans, the 401k loan, vehicles and more. We had PoniesandFIREjr. We figured out daycare costs. We eventually got to the point where we were able to pay extra on our mortgage.
Things were cruising along financially, but it felt like some funds were slipping through our fingers. We weren’t as tight on our budget as we had originally been and while cash flowing some expenses, it felt like weren’t making any progress on our house.
Mr. PoniesandFIRE suggested a refinance, but I was against it as, on paper, we should be able to make big progress on the mortgage and pay it off soon, so why go through the hassle of a refi? I dug my heels in a bit on this, but when I realized we could reduce our interest rate and that there would be very minimal closing costs, I was swayed.
In October 2017, we refinanced from our 30 year 4.75% to a 10 year at 3.25% with our local credit union. At that point into our 30 year mortgage, a regular payment was only reducing our principal by around $370 a month. Our first payment on the 10 year reduced our principal by $1,000!
If we don’t pay ANY extra between now and the loan’s maturity, just by making this refinance, we will save ourselves over $50,000 in interest!
I know there is strife over paying off mortgages early in the FIRE versus Dave Ramsey worlds, but for us, we still plan to shoot for being mortgage free as soon as possible. Once our mortgage is gone, I could get rid of my side hustle with zero negative financial effects to our lifestyle and make huge improvements in our quality of life.
For us, the 10 year was such an improvement in our interest rate, as well as being the kick in the pants we needed to stay on budget. Rather than our extra payments dwindling like last year, they are built in now, but it’s not so tight that a bad month financially would be hard to make the payment. Even if we go through with selling next year and downsizing, the progress we will have made in the 18 months on the 10 year will be hugely helpful!
If you haven’t considered it before, I definitely suggest checking out a 10 or 15 year mortgage refinance and don’t forget to check your local credit union! Our credit union could beat every other bank we tried by at least ½ a percent!