As many of you know, my husband and I are working our way toward debt-free home ownership. Our dream is to have absolutely no house payment. That’s right—no mortgage! I covered “the why” in Part 2 of this series, and today I’ll be explaining how we’re making it happen.
Let me start off by saying that we do not have everything figured out! We’re just an ordinary couple learning as we go—making mistakes, trying new strategies, and discovering ways to save more.
But we’re excited, we’re hopeful, and we’re determined to make this happen!
I’ve started chronicling our journey with a 5-part series, but will probably expand it as I receive more questions and as we have life updates to share.
- The Plan
- The Why
- Making Debt-Free Home Ownership Happen (You are here!)
- Important Budget Categories
- Why We Plan to Build Instead of Buy
If you have any questions, leave me a comment down below. I love getting to connect with you!
Making Debt-Free Home Ownership Happen
Here are a few things you should know for context:
- We’re a one-income family. My husband, Benj, works, and I stay home with our baby, Jack.
- We have not yet purchased our first home, but are saving toward that end.
- I’ve been living with chronic illness for almost 4 years, so that slows us down somewhat.
- Our total savings goal is currently $170,000.
See? We’re normal—not extraordinary—and we’re not aiming to purchase a half-million-dollar home (well, hopefully someday).
Our goal is very doable, which is what keeps us motivated to keep our budget trim and to keep saving as fast as we can! So here’s how we’re making debt-free home ownership happen.
We Budget Together Every Month
I cannot stress enough how important budgeting with your spouse is! Before a new month begins, Benj and I sit down together and have our “budget committee meeting”, and we have a lot of fun with it!
To make the budgeting process easy, we like using YNAB. We tell every dollar where to go, and try very hard to stick to our budget throughout the month.
Sometimes, unexpected expenses come up during the month. When that happens, we’ll typically move money from another category to cover any purchases we need to make.
We Don’t Increase Our Standard of Living
If Benj gets a raise or a bonus, or if we receive a tax refund, we throw the extra money into our house fund instead of increasing our standard of living.
The trick is putting that extra money into our house fund right away so that we’re not tempted to spend it on anything else. Believe me, that’s not always easy, but it definitely helps us to keep saving at a good pace.
We’re Not Taking Expensive Vacations
Benj and have both been bitten by the travel bug! We can not wait to be able to travel the world together! It’s definitely one of our big dreams.
But we know that putting off traveling now will enable us to travel a whole lot more later! Once we’ve achieved debt-free home ownership, we’ll be able to put the entire amount of our mortgage payment toward travel expenses, if we want to.
For now, we’re contenting ourselves with smaller trips. Most of the travel we’ve done during our marriage has centered around visiting family, since we live 2,500 miles away from my parents. We also went on a couple of weekend getaways, pre-baby.
Since Jack was born, we’ve gone camping 3 times, which was a lot of fun! Granted, I don’t view camping as a vacation—especially with a baby. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a wonderful adventure, and such a great way to unplug!
Plus, camping is very economical—once you buy your tent and basic camping gear, most of the expenses are taken care of for future trips.
We Cut Up Our Only Credit Card
Shortly after Benj and I were married, we cut up the only credit card either of us had ever signed up for. We did this because we wanted to fully commit to ever only using money straight from our bank accounts—cash, debit cards, and checks—with the exception of our future mortgage.
“But you need good credit to buy a house!”
Not true! That’s what manual underwriting is for.
“But you need a credit card for rental cars!”
Actually, you don’t. Benj initially got his credit card because he thought he needed it for rental cars, not realizing that he could use his debit card instead.
“But think of the points, cash back, and airline miles you’re missing out on!”
Thanks, but no thanks. Even if you pay your credit card off every month, you’re probably spending more money than if you had just used cash. Studies have shown that on average, people who use credit cards spend 12-18% more, which is crazy! Not exactly a great tradeoff for only 1-5% back.
Debit cards also now offer the same protection as credit cards, so there’s no need to worry about security.
We Save Money I Earn
Whenever I earn money doing photoshoots for friends or through blogging, I try to put it toward our house savings. It isn’t much, but every little bit counts!
We Buy Used
Whenever possible, we try to buy used. Thrift stores, eBay, OfferUp, Craigslist, and Facebook groups are my go-to places to look for deals. Garage sales are more hit or miss, but usually have the cheapest prices!
We especially like purchasing baby gear, clothing, furniture, vehicles, and anything else that tends to have a high markup when we’re buying used.
We Make Sacrifices
Right now, there are a lot of things we’re waiting to spend money on. We’re making some bigger sacrifices, like relaxing vacations and a second car, but also smaller ones, like new iPhones and going out to eat regularly.
This means that we often have to tell ourselves no, which can be hard to do after a while. That’s where reminding ourselves of our end goal—and everything we’ll be able to do once we have no mortgage—comes in handy!
We’re trading in short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards.
We Dream Together
It would be silly to pretend that we never get discouraged, because discouraging days do come.
For instance, we’ve lived in an apartment for almost 3 years, but we really don’t like apartment living.
We’re surrounded by noisy neighbors, concrete, other apartment complexes, and people walking or driving by our front and back windows. There’s even a woman snoring loudly on the other side of our bedroom wall every single night! Plus, our rent has increased multiple times, and it’s starting to get out of hand.
On the days when our goal of debt-free home ownership feels far away, Benj and I dream together. We talk about what owning our own little home will be like, look at floor plans, and browse homes for sale.
Sometimes, we’ll go out on a date (often to the library!) and spend time doing this together. Dreaming helps us to remember that our current situation—no matter how frustrating—is only temporary.
We’re Trusting the Lord
As Christians, we’re trusting the Lord with our plans, committing them to prayer and holding onto them loosely. We believe that His timing is best!
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Ultimately, this is by far the most important thing we’re doing. We’re trusting God’s will for our lives, believing that He wants us to use wisdom, and to “owe no man anything” (Romans 13:8) as much as is possible.
The Road to Debt-Free Home Ownership
So far, we’re on track to meet our goal of debt-free home ownership by Benj’s 30th birthday, but it’s probably going to be tight. We still have about a year-and-a-half to go, so anything could happen!
If we’re not able to make it by his 30th birthday, we’ll just keep working hard until we do.
How did you save for your first home?
Read Part 4: Important Budget Categories We’re Still Funding