I have been emotionally preparing myself for two months to write this post because…well…there is a lot to unpack here!
The short story: The rumors are true. We are selling our house!
The long story is also true: There is such an incredible back-story to all of this; how we went from living off of credit cards in a 2-bedroom townhome across the street from a strip club (wish I was joking), selling a car we couldn't afford and walking everywhere, sitting on the floor after selling our couches to pay off our credit cards…to now selling our dream home in a hot market and embarking on our next grand adventure…
It's all…A LOT.
You're probably curious (I know I would be). Maybe you're even skeptical (I probably would be also). So, in true FCF fashion, I'm revealing my hand and showing you all my cards!
I have nothing to hide, and in fact, I am SO PROUD of where we are and how far we've come. Let it be known it did NOT happen because “we have millions in the bank” (um…we don't. But boy, that would be nice if we did!), or because “I'm an influencer and get everything I want” (also not true. Though, there are certainly perks to the job! #FreeSwag). Mostly, this happened because we got scrappy, clever, and worked really really hard. (Don't worry, I'll walk you through EVERYTHING. Just keep reading!)
LET'S START WITH YOUR BURNING Q'S:
Since I'm sure questions are BURSTING from you, I thought I'd start with the most common FAQs that are rolling in before getting to the back-story.
Q: Why are you moving?
A: I could really go deep into this one, and I'll probably do a video about it soon because you'll NEVER BELIEVE how crazy this has all been. To keep it short, here's the best I can do to summarize…
God told us it was time to move. Period. That's my only real explanation! But for the sake of back-story…
We had no plans to move. When we bought this house 4.5 years ago (March 2016), it was our “forever home”; our last stop. A few months ago however, (shortly after the twins were born, actually), I started feeling “the nudge”. A strange, angsty, unsettled feeling about our house. The truth is, our home has plenty of square feet, but we only had 4 kids (and our oldest was only 6 years old) when we moved in, so it was perfect then.
Now? 8 kids and some pre-teens later, we are about 3 bedrooms and a few “hang-out spaces” short. I also could really use an office. The kitchen table just isn't cutting it any more, ha! But truthfully, we could have – and would have – made it work forever. We LOVE our neighborhood. We REALLY REALLY REALLY love our yard. But ultimately, I just couldn't shake the feeling that we were supposed to be living somewhere else.
It became undeniable that God had other plans for us, and our family was needed somewhere else. It was keeping me up at night, and the feelings started becoming almost urgent. We just needed to figure out where we were supposed to be and what God intended for us.
Again, I will probably do a video telling this full story because IT. IS. CRAZY! The nutshell version is: we found a fixer-upper in our area that we saw so much potential with. We made a low-ball offer, they verbally accepted, and we immediately listed our home for sale. We scrambled to clear out our house and pack up as much possible to get our home show-ready, and stayed at the cabin as often as we could to keep it clean for showings (now my IG stories for the last 2 months are making sense, right?). It was one of the craziest, most stressful things we've faced in 2020 (and that's saying a lot!) but with help, we made it work.
Three weeks later, however, we made the agonizing decision to walk away from what we thought was the perfect house for us, because of a property line issue that we just couldn't resolve. We took our home off the market, confused…but still feeling at peace that it would all work out.
Fast forwarding through lots of crazy details (get excited, this story is a good one, can't wait to share it all someday!) here we are, under contract for a completely different house (in our area) that is somehow, in some way, even MORE perfect for our family than the last one was! As soon as we were officially under contract we put our home back up on the market again.
I am not going to share any details about the house we are trying to buy just yet because A) I don't want to jinx it, and B) the fat lady hasn't sung yet! But don't worry, we will share all the juicy details and loads of photos as soon as keys are in-hand. I canNOT wait to show it to you!
The timing sure isn't ideal. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, we have 7-month old twins and a puppy, there's an upcoming election that could rock the economy, we are homeschooling most of our (8, mind you) kids, we both work from home running 6 businesses, we just started decorating and fixing up our home exactly how we want it…it's madness, really. And yet, we feel it's what we are supposed to do, and we are SO EXCITED for this new house.
Months ago, someone showed me this picture:
Throughout this process, this simple drawing has come to mind 10,000 times. With every narrative: “There's no way there is anything better for our family than our current house. We are not moving. The timing is terrible. This is our forever home. No way.” Then, “Ok fine, if we're supposed to move, we will move. But we will never find a house we like as much, in our price range, especially with how high the housing market is right now.” Then “Wow! Ok we found a house we love for a great price! This might actually work!” Then to, “No way, we can't walk away from this house.
Now we are emotionally invested, our house is for sale, we told our whole neighborhood we are moving, there is no way we will find as much house, for this good of a price. We have to make this work.” To “This isn't going to work. Why did we feel so compelled then? Why feel so strongly about something, just for it to not work out? This just doesn't make sense…” to now, HOPEFULLY landing in a house that we are so excited about, and will be so great for our family. I have full trust and faith in God's plan and that His will is always better than mine in the end.
In short, I've learned to never call a home my “dream home”, but more my “dream right now” home. Because apparently dreams can grow and change, and that's ok!
Q: Why now? You just fixed up your basement and office. Do the DIY girls who redid your rooms know? Are they mad?
A: Can I be totally honest? When we first decided to list our home for sale, that was my first thought: “Not now, we finally got the basement and office looking amazing! Waaaaah!” So yes, I'm actually really sad about that. (Not sure what we're talking about? See our school room reveal here, and our office reveal here). But again, we are just doing what we feel we are supposed to do. Yes, we absolutely told Kristen, Kenna, Christine, Chrissy, Crystel (wow say that 5x fast!) and everyone else who worked on the projects. We actually told them before we even told our family members, in fact (sorry mom!).
When we started the projects we had no idea we'd be moving! So it was a shock, mostly to me. They dried my tears, sent me cookies (literally), gave me hugs when I was so stressed I thought I was going to explode, and have been absolutely incredible and supportive. They are excited for us and our new adventure and had so much fun on the first projects, they are even going to help me make over our new space! They are a dream team and I'm so excited to work together on some amazing projects in the new house.
Q: Can you tell us about your current home you're selling?
A: How's this market we are living in, eh?! We are blessed to have bought our home for a SCREAMIN' deal 4.5 years ago. (Keep reading for how we were able to afford it to begin with.) It had been on the market for over 1 year when we found it, with very little interest and no offers, if I remember right. While it had great bones, it was grossly outdated and overgrown, which scared people away. But not us! We love a good deal and we aren't afraid of a good project ;). We spent the last 4 years updating and fixing it up, so it increased in value immensely. We even got an appraisal to make sure our home is priced competitively, and whoever buys it will actually be getting a killer value, especially for the land alone!
Q: Are your kids sad to move?
A: At first they were a little unsure. The unknown is always scary (not just for us adults!), but they quickly became excited at the prospect of a new adventure, the more we talked about the benefits of moving. Any hesitancy they had was cured when we told them we'd have enough space for the big kids to have their own rooms, and for everyone to actually be able to keep their clothes in their room (we have to keep clothes in hallways, the laundry room, and a number of other creative places!).
One of the sweetest moments of my life was when we blindfolded the kids and took them to the new house for the first time. It was a complete surprise; they had no idea we had even been looking at a new house, all they knew is that we were trying to sell our house so we could move. I took video of the experience and might share it with you someday, it was pretty special!
Q: Can I come see your house?
A: This is the part we are EXTREMELY particular about, for the safety and well-being of our family. Only anyone who is legitimately interested in purchasing our home is allowed to come to see it. Thank you for respecting our privacy, it's so appreciated!
Q: Why are you using Homie? Is it sponsored?
A: Nope! Not sponsored. Homie charges a flat rate instead of commission, and we need every dime to put into repairs and updates on the new house. So we opted for Homie for the savings! We have been super happy with the process, and we love both our buying agent and selling agent. We used Homie to sell our rental home a few years ago and decided to do it again. Highly recommend it!
Q: How can you afford this?
A: Aaaaah. This is the good part. Buckle up!
OUR FINANCIAL JOURNEY (THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD!)
When you look at our home, our cars, our vacations, your initial reaction might be to think “frugal? Yeah right. There's no way.” And you know, you'd be partially right! The way we live DOESN’T look frugal at first glance! It's an abundant lifestyle. But if you're new around here, you might not know that it’s only abundant BECAUSE of how responsible and tight we are with our finances; not in SPITE of it. Also, if you’re new around here, you probably don't know our story and how far we've come.
Consider us the Richard Simmons AFTER he loses the weight. No one online really knows him as the Richard that is 123 pounds heavier, working as a Maitre d'hotel, unhappy and unhealthy. We know him AFTER the work has been done; fit, healthy, 123lbs lighter, with a fitness empire to show for his hard work. The struggle and back-story is something you have to dig up if you want to know the full story. He worked for years to lose the weight – and most importantly, continues working every day to keep it off – and just because he’s thin and fit now, doesn’t mean he can walk around eating whatever he wants. He stays healthy and fit because he continues to live by the weight loss and lifestyle principles that allowed him to lose the weight in the first place! He just might not need to be as strict with his diet as he was when he was first on his weight loss journey.
The same is true with our finances and debt journey.
OUR F.D. (FINANCIAL DISASTER)
When Bubba and I were newlyweds, we were frugal. We shopped sales, used coupons when we went out to eat, lovingly accepted hand-me-downs from anyone. Yet, a rude awakening occurred when a trifecta of life changes happened. Bubba quit his job to start a business, suddenly dropping us from 2 incomes to 1, we lost all our savings in a real estate investment that didn’t pan out, and we felt it time to start our family, resulting in me supporting us financially while pregnant but then quitting and becoming a SAHM when the baby was born.
Despite all our frugal efforts, we found ourselves living off of credit cards, $0 in the bank with an unstable self-employed income, getting behind on bills, stuck with a mortgage and car we suddenly couldn't afford. We were frugal, but we had been living recklessly close to the line; spending as much as we made…and didn't even realize it. In a matter of months we had racked up over $15k in credit card debt with no bail-out in sight.
It was terrifying.
We bought our little 2-bedroom townhome as soon as the ink was dry on our marriage certificate in 2007, and had planned to live in it for a year or two, then use it as a rental property. But it was 2009, and the market had tanked – as did the value of our home. Friends all around us were foreclosing and opting to short-sale their homes, with an “oh well, luck of the economy I guess” shrug and excuse. For us, we felt that this was debt we got ourselves into willingly, so it was up to us to do what it took to get out of it responsibly.
Don’t worry, I’ll tell you EXACTLY how in a second (just keep reading!). But let’s just say it worked, and worked fast.
In 13 months we paid off over $15k credit card debt, on a $31k income. The next year we built up savings. Once our pressing debt was paid off and we had a few months to live off of in the bank, we started on what I like to call “phase 2″ finances.
“PHASE 2” FINANCES
What I realized during our F.D. (Financial Disaster) is that being frugal wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to use a coupon, or to choose something off a sale rack instead of paying full-price for it. True frugality – truly being financially sound – isn't a checklist; it’s a lifestyle. And the “frugal” side of that isn’t enough. Sure, it’s so so so very important. And it should never take a back seat. But while cutting back, tightening your belt, and focusing on frugal day-to-day decisions, you ALSO must be focusing on Phase 2: which is growing your income, wealth, investments, and improving your overall financial situation long-term.
We realized we couldn’t sit by and rely on our unstable self-employed income alone. So we made our financial journey a 3 prong approach: 1) spend our money wisely and frugally, 2) build up solid savings in the bank, 3) actively and passively invest extras while building businesses and working to increase income. Since we didn't have a ton of extra money for traditional investments, we decided to focus on our home and mortgage and kill two birds with one stone by making the roof over our head an investment for our future.
We paid off our debts, and it took us 5 years of saving every dime and being incredibly disciplined with our finances, but we finally saved up enough to put down on a house. Our little townhome had been good to us, but it was time to move on!
It took 18 months of intense shopping (like, literally walking through 1-3 houses weekly for 18 months, and looking at hundreds of others online), but we found the deal of a lifetime – a classic, colonial-style short sale in a million dollar neighborhood. It was extra complicated due to divorce, double bankruptcy, and dozens of liens on the property that we had to settle. It took 12 months (and lots of sleepless nights) to close, but we did it! We rented out our townhome and kept it as an investment property, and moved forward with the short sale. We got in for ½ the original cost, and couldn't wait to fix it up.
My parents happened to be looking into investing in a second home in Utah at the time (they lived out of state then), so they co-signed on the house and bought in as investors. We had a legally binding contract written up and treated it as officially as any business transaction should be. It was a win-win for us both. We now only had ½ the mortgage payment to worry about, and my parents had a real estate investment to add to their portfolio.
It paid off.
In 2016, after 4.5 years (our magic number, I guess!) we were able to sell our short sale for over $200k more than we bought it for. We paid my parents their handsome investment + interest according to our contract (which ended up being a blessing to them as they had retired by this time), and used our own profits (plus the savings we had worked hard to build up) to put a large down payment on our next home, and still have some leftover for repairs. We were excited to finally be settling into (what we thought would be) our forever home!
The home had been on the market for over one year, was desperately outdated, and it was perfect for us. What scared away any and all potential buyers was like music to us. People ran from the ornate, fringe drapes, the purple carpet, and the carved flowers in the fireplace. We, however, saw it as the perfect opportunity to snag a beautiful home with great bones, for a fantastic price.
And we did.
We spent the next 4.5 years (again, that lucky number!) slowly updating the home and making it ours. Only, this time, we weren’t updating an investment – we were updating our forever home; our last stop.
Or so we thought.
Thanks to getting our current home for a great deal, thanks to all the updates and repairs we made, and mostly thanks to the fact that we paid off our home a few years ago (keep reading for details on that) our home is now able to sell for a significant profit. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to use this thriving real estate market to get us into our next home, and because we paid off our current home, we can use everything from the sale of it to go into the purchasing and renovating of the next one.
So that’s the general overview of how we’ve timed the market right and used real estate as an investment arm to upgrade our homes again and again. Now, let's walk through how we were able to turn our finances around and get out of our Financial Disaster in the first place!
HERE'S HOW WE TURNED AROUND OUR FINANCES
Starting all the way back at our F.D. in our inner-city townhome, here’s how we made this all happen. Keep in mind, if you really want DETAILED step-by-step instructions on how to do this for YOU and your finances, check out Budget Boot Camp (and use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off!). It's 27 videos and detailed spreadsheets and worksheets that help you absolutely master your finances, your way. That being said, here's a quick summary of what we did, and continue to do today:
- We opened 7 bank accounts. This has been one of my most viral financial principles, and for good reason – it works! When our money was so tight we literally didn’t have an extra $10, to now, where we are in phase 2 and we are having to use even more discipline to be wise and frugal, with our money…opening bank accounts have been one of our long-standing hero moves. I won’t get into it in detail because I cover it in great depth in Budget Boot Camp, and I also have a video and blog post about those bank accounts HERE. But let’s just say that the more bank accounts you have, the more organized your money is and the easier it is to build up savings and pay off debt. Your savings goes to savings, your Christmas budget goes to your Christmas account, your medical expenses are paid from HSA or medical savings account…out of sight, out of mind! And no, it doesn't cost you money (in fact, I kept getting paid to open accounts!), and no, it's not complicated! It actually SIMPLIFIES your finances. Just watch THIS VIDEO and try it for yourself! To this day we have over 20 bank accounts and it allows us to track every dime.
- We stopped spending money. We literally stopped eating out. We never went to movies. Ever. We stopped shopping entirely. We had no monthly subscription services. We paid for what we needed, and didn’t spend money on what we didn’t absolutely NEED. It’s that simple.
- I created an envelope system that actually works. I had tried cash envelopes and they were a major fail. I came up with my own budget system that worked, and still works today! It immediately changed the game and helped me keep an extremely tight budget each week.
- We sold…well…everything. Since our income wasn’t enough to pay off our debt, we needed to find extra. We sold our car which rid us of our monthly car payment and used my high school car (we also either walked or rode bikes or public transit everywhere). We sold our couches (no, really. I’m not kidding.) and we sat on folding chairs and on blankets in the living room for months. Bubba threw me a surprise party for my birthday and everyone ate cake and ice cream on blankets on the floor. I was mortified. Bubba thought it was awesome. Bubba sold his electric guitar and amp from high school, and even his TI-83 calculator (for $50!). We sold anything that wasn’t deemed essential (which is a lot, if you really think about it!).
- We earned extra money. I took surveys online. Bubba took side sales-consulting gigs. I started my blog in hopes of earning money. Bubba even volunteered for medical research studies with Gene Brown Research. I almost sold plasma but the line was too long (#TrueStory). Our income was so slim, we constantly tried to find ways to gather extra dollars.
- We put $1,000 into savings, and then focused EVERY DIME on debt. Tax return? Yard sale earnings? Birthday money? Paycheck money after bills? Every dime (yes, sometimes even $3…) went toward our credit card debt. It was shocking how quickly we paid them off when we started 1) not spending money/cutting back expenses and 2) finding extra money. Think about it. When we sold our car, that freed up over $500/mo that we didn’t have before. Instead of using that money for groceries or eating out or getting my nails done, we put 100% of it toward our credit cards. That’s $6,500 in 13 months! That’s almost HALF our debt with ONE frugal sacrifice! Not to mention the cost of gas, registration, insurance…that’s about another 4,300 (almost $11,000!!!!!) in savings by not having a car!
- We “divide and conquer“. I have a post and video on this that explains it much better than I could explain here, so just head HERE to watch that. But Bubba and I divided up all our financial responsibilities, which helped us to stop fighting about money, do things our own way, and share the load. It helped us get a grip on our finances SO FAST, by making two heads better than one; not two heads always fighting and getting nothing actually done, ha! We still live by our same Divide and Conquer list to this day.
- We started “The 70% Rule“. Read about this in-depth HERE. But basically we vowed never to live so close to the line again. 70% of our take-home income is for spending (mortgage, bills, groceries, vacations, utilities, eating out, EVERYTHING), 20% goes to savings (which we divide up between emergency savings that we never touch, and “family savings” that we use to save up for everyday things and also for an emergency cushion for home/car repairs, etc), and 10% goes to tithing since we believe in giving back, even under the most dire/destitute situations. (Note, for those who don't tithe, I list out other options for that 10% HERE.) As the years have gone on, our goal has been to flip the numbers and only spend 30% of our income, and use 70% for tithing, investments, savings, and retirement. I'm happy to report we are getting closer and closer to that number each year, as we continue to be frugal, while increasing income, and staying out of debt.
- I focused most on the spending I had the most control over – namely FOOD and GROCERY SHOPPING! You might not be able to sell your house, or your car. You might not have control over gas prices, or your utility bill. Sure, do what you can and get out of expenses you can't afford as quickly as you can! But we found our greatest control came when we focused on our FOOD – namely, grocery shopping. Why do you think I'm so passionate about Shelf Cooking? I started an entire Shelf Cooking website, and I have written a cookbook about it (coming soon!). How you grocery shop and cook is SO IMPORTANT! What 95% of the population doesn't realize is that the way they grocery shop and cook, that daily purchase of coffee or regular take-out run, is what is keeping them from the new car, or dream home, or family vacation, or whatever their financial goals are. I have dozens of posts and videos (and an entire second blog!) about it, but I would START HERE to learn about my super tight $100/person per month, and how it's not only doable, but it's practical and can PROPEL you to financial freedom!
- We paid off our house. When we moved into our current home, we made it a point to keep our expenses as low as possible, and stock away as much as possible into savings. After a few years, we finally had enough to fulfill our dream of putting in a swimming pool. We paid a deposit, had plans drawn up, and even had a date set to break ground. As the date came closer, however, we felt sick to our stomachs about it. I couldn't put my finger on it, but we just felt…uneasy. After much contemplation, we decided to use that savings to pay off our mortgage loan instead. We sold our townhome (that we had been renting out), took our pool savings, and then tightened our belts EXTREMELY TIGHTLY for the next year, and BOOM. Paid it off. It has been such a blessing to us! Instead of increasing our spending, we have used what we used to pay each month on a mortgage, and have used it to save up for various things (oh haaay family cabin repairs).
- We started investing. Once we paid off our debts and hit our savings goals, we started taking 10% of our income each month and investing it. Not going to lie, investing is SO SCARY for me! It feels like the lottery! But really, if you're using a trusted advisor and do it right, it can be pretty darn safe. Some of our investments are already paying us back each month! So it's been a blessed way to have a small, passive income (that we usually flip around to put into other investments).
- And then of course over the years, we have worked hard to build our businesses and increase our income. I didn't take a paycheck for years, but once Bubba sold his company (and put 100% of the money into retirement, since we didn't have any leading up to that point – yikes!), I started taking a paycheck from my company. Now Bubba works with me as well, and after working for free for 2 years (thanks babe!) he now takes a paycheck too. Our companies have been incredible blessings to our family, and I hope we continue to grow and support so many amazing families as well! (We have 15 employees and several contractors and we hope to continue growing our team!)
So there you have it!
That's the major news I have been sitting on for WEEKS AND WEEKS. Let me tell you what, it is NOT easy keeping secrets from you guys! I nearly let the cat out of the bag many times. But it's been a while road with putting our house up for sale…the first house falling through…taking it back down…going under contract with a different house…putting our home back up on the market again…it's been a lot to process, haha!
Hopefully this helps give a general overview of how we got to the point we are at in life, and inspires you somehow to set, work hard at, and reach your own financial goals as well!
Keep an eye on my personal Instagram account for updates and sneak peeks of the house in time. Thanks for your support on our next grand adventure!