1 year debt free anniversary – was it worth it

It’s been 1 year since we clicked the mouse and paid off our last chuck on consumer debt. (we’re now just working on our mortgage). You can read all about our debt free journey here.

So what has this year brought?

Has it been as amazing as we’d hoped?

Yes.  Yes it has.

 

In the weeks after we paid that last bill off, Bruce and I headed down for a couples only long weekend in Waco, Texas.  We went to the Magnolia Silobration (Fixer Upper peeps unite!) and listened to live music, shopped, visited antique shops and just hung out. It was so much fun to share another side of Texas with Bruce too. I lived there in my early 20’s and have wished I could share more of it with Bruce and help him fall in love with it as I have.  This was a much needed little getaway after having our noses to the grindstone for so long.  We paid cash and savored every second of it!

 

Black friday we were all laying around the house watching the old classic, Titanic. So what did that make us want to do? It made us want to look into taking a cruise of course.  Go figure.  So as luck would have it, we found a black Friday sale and managed to get the 4 of us booked on a nearly week long cruise for under $1500 (included taxes)!  Again, paid in full.  It’s amazing how life can be when you’re not paying out so much towards interest and debt.  We had a modest Christmas, continuing to save as much as possible and while we’ve padded our budget a bit we haven’t gone too crazy.  Travel is our love though so we tend to all be in agreement to live a bit tighter and then splurge on seeing our beautiful country and the world.

We saved up, bought our airfare to Florida and took our cruise to Belize in February. It was so nice to get to have that experience together. Afterwards we rented a car and spent the day driving down to the Florida keys, seeing a state park beach and then seeing the everglades before our flight back to winter.  (I’m praying this beach was spared during the recent hurricanes.)

 

So one thing that we do differently than most people we know is that we don’t do all the extras when we travel. We aren’t big drinkers, and we consciously chose not to do any excursions from the cruise. This was for 2 reasons. The first was that we had a hard time finding things that we all found interesting and “worth it” for a 6 year old, a teenager and both of us. Second, we priced it out and decided instead of spending a 1/2 day at the mayan ruins we could use that same amount of money and do a 2 week camping road trip during the summer.  We don’t feel like we are sacrificing at all though. We make sure to enjoy everything we can do and savor it all.  Instead of the excursion we drank from coconuts in belize and ate fresh salsa on the pier while taking it all in.

We have made a decision that we’ll treat “vacation money” like “real life money”.  That means we don’t just surrender $1400-1600 for a few hours excursion just because we’re on vacation, for good or bad I can’t forget that that is the amount of a house payment back in “real life”.  Plus, knowing that is nearly the exact amount of what we later paid for 2 weeks full of memories always keeps us accountable. The more memories and time together the better.

 

So one of the biggest benefits we’ve had since paying off all those pesky bills was a huge peace of mind and the ability to FINALLY make some decisions where money wasn’t the first factor in the decision process.  For years Bruce has been wanting to switch careers. He worked long, unpredictable hours and could never count on being home in the evening. One of his big goals during our whole debt paying process was to be able to switch jobs and be able to see the kids play sports and be involved with their activities. Especially to have our little guy join cub scouts and for Bruce to get to be there to experience it with him.

In May Bruce accepted a different job and while it came with a bit of a pay cut, it also came with predictable hours and the guarantee of being home every evening. It was an answer to prayer.  It’s amazing how things worked out in terms of timing, he was able to put in his notice so he’d finish in time for the vacation dates we had set up months before.  He set up his start date at his new job for a couple days after we got back.  It was as if it was all perfectly planned out. 😉

So in June we started off our road trip fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine and seeing some of the Little house on the Prairie books’ sites. We camped on the actual land that the Ingalls family lived on in DeSmet years ago. The kids slept in this awesome covered wagon and Bruce and I slept under the stars in our sleeping bags. It was magical.

 

We then headed to Colorado Springs to visit with family before we made our way over to Durango to visit more family. Along the way we saw Garden of the Gods, Cave of the winds, St. Elmo ghost town, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Silverton, Ouray, then Durango. It was so great.  Afterwards we headed back and stopped in Iowa to see more family/friends. It was such an amazing time.  We camped for the first 9 nights and then stayed with people and in hotels. I love everything about a road trip. Long talks, good music, seeing the outskirts of areas and how quickly the landscapes can change. I savor it all.


A couple weeks ago I was able to go with a cousin out to see my aunt and uncle in New York City. It was amazing.  My favorite moments were when I got a chocolate croissant from an amazing little french bakery and an iced coffee and we sat in Rockefeller plaza taking it all in and catching up with each other.  We got to see so many amazing sites but my favorite moments were drinking wine, staying up way too late and finding out how hilarious my relatives are. It was so great to get to have basically a 5 day slumber party and laugh and play. I loved it.  My aunt and uncle spoiled us rotten so it didn’t cost me as much as it sounds like it did but it still was something that I felt really proud to pay for up front and then use cash throughout.

 

 

So it’s not that suddenly we paid things off and then life got easy, but I will say that an incredible amount of pressure and stress has been relieved in our lives and I am so grateful to get to have these experiences and say yes more.  We’re working to beef up a savings account, have started a college savings account FINALLY and are working to make sure all the details are handled.  Mostly though I can look back at the years we spent, first getting to where we weren’t building more debt, then breaking even, then finally paying extra towards bills. It was hard and there were so many months where we felt like we were running in place. I keep meticulous spreadsheets, track where we spend each cent and work really hard to make sure that we spend with intention instead of just flowing through without consciously deciding.  I’ve taken all those lessons I’ve learned and teamed them up with encouragement and fun and created a course I’m offering for free starting in October. It’s all been a lesson of perseverance, communication and teamwork.  I’m here to offer encouragement to anyone else out there who feels overwhelmed by bills, payments or is just exhausted of the game of trying to keep up with everything society says you should do or have.

I know that many people have no desire to travel, nor do I share these photos because I think you should (well maybe a little bit, traveling is amazing).  Mostly though I know that there is something inside of us all that lights us up and makes us feel alive and in tune with why we are alive. Travel does that for me, what does that for you?   Whether money is a factor or not, I offer you so much encouragement to add more of whatever that thing is for you into your life. Fill in all the gaps and cracks with experiences, people, and lastly things that bring you joy.

So in true full circle spirit, last night Bruce and our son went to their first Cub scouts meeting. Together they signed up and Bruce is going to be volunteering with the troop. Aspen came running in the door last night when they got home and could hardly get all the words out he was so excited to share how much fun he had.  It makes me think back to any random day 2, 3, or even 6 years ago that we had to make a decision to save money here or there, pay off something.. it was all those tiny steps that helped us to that moment last night and a million other small moments just like it. We couldn’t see how it was all going to work out while we were in the thick of it, but I’m so grateful we dreamed and had faith.

True Freedom! How we cleaned up over 48k in debt in just 21 months

48kin21months

I was in conversation a few weeks ago with a close friend and we were talking about bills. I mentioned how hard we were focusing on paying bills because we were close to getting out of debt and only having our home left to pay.  “Wow, you’re lucky.  Must be nice.” That was her reply.  That stuck with me… we must be lucky.. it just didn’t sit right.

Over the last few weeks that’s been stirring around in my mind between errands and other thoughts and I finally am able to articulate why I don’t think luck had much to do with it and I certainly wouldn’t call the experience “nice”.  It was hard.  Really hard.  It is was raw and real and I feel like we’ve been paying off debt FOREVER!

Fair warning; this post is really honest and really long.

I believe in going after dreams, in living a big life and in living in true authenticity and joy.  I want a life that is full of love and experiences that make me grow and expand my life and relationships.

Let me rewind to 2011, our life was busy and full of joy. We had a small modest home in the suburbs of Minneapolis, 2 used cars we drove, a few acres of land a couple hours away with a camper, atv, an extra truck that ran and an extra truck that didn’t.  We’d spend the week working our tails off then pack up and go up to the “cabin” for the weekends.  As Sky got older and had more sports tournaments over the weekends we noticed that our attention, time and money were being pulled in more directions.  It was getting harder for us to really enjoy each thing we were doing because we were always racing to the next thing.  With a preteen and an infant we knew it was going to be many more years before we re-gained full chilled out weekends.  At the same time we were getting by financially, we didn’t think about all our payments since we were able to pay them all each month.  We didn’t consider ourselves paycheck to paycheck…  looking back we had about an extra 2-3 paycheck buffer that kept us feeling falsely safe.

bonfirewindow

During a vacation to Colorado and out West in 2011, one of my dearest friends introduced me to Dave Ramsey and we talked about debt, and dared to dream what it would be like to have no payments.   It was after we got home that we had some serious conversations about money, goals and life.  We made a choice to stop reacting to life and instead make some hard decisions that would help us in the long run.  We knew that someday we wanted the best of both worlds, not the home and a cabin but instead a home where we could live like we were at the cabin. We set the intention and we got to work; that first year we sold the land, the camper, the atv, the trucks, extra furniture and everything we could think of.  Doing all of that also allowed me to continue to work part time and be home more to help raise the kids. It was a win-win.

Years before, after I was going through my divorce I remember feeling so hopeless financially.  I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with my dad and I was crying my eyes out. I had just gotten a notice that my credit card with an $11k balance was raising my interest rate to 33%.  As a single mom at the time I was panicked.  I couldn’t see out of the 10’s of thousands of dollars of consumer debt I was left with after that world came crashing down on me.  From that hopelessness I filed for bankruptcy.   I justified it in my mind and at interest rates of greater than 30% at the time on all my credit cards I had paid my original balances plus some but because of all the interest I couldn’t seem to gain ground.  I filed and felt like I got a new start. The ironic thing.. even the day after filing bankruptcy I still was never debt free. There were still student loans and other things I was still paying on.

Fast forward back now to 2012 and the hubby and I were in the midst of working to pay things off then our main car broke down.  Note – this is was a defining moment for us looking back –  We chose to let that car sit for a bit while we figured out how to fix it and we went out and we finance a newer one.  Eventually we fixed up the first and sold it for a loss. This cycle went on for the next couple years.  2 steps forward one step back.

paris_noelle_beret

At the end of 2014 is when we officially had it.  I was fresh back from a life changing European trip working with women and had a glimpse of how big life could be!  I knew that life was so much more than work, bills and being tight on time.  We were done playing this game, especially with money.

We bought a used car for cash and put our financed suv up for sale.  It finally sold in the spring of 2015, we owed more than it sold for and we had to pay the different and take a loss but we wouldn’t change it.  That same time we were down to just around $1500 of debt.  Free of car payments and only a small minimum payment on 1 card left we felt our world start to open up again.  We’d been dreaming of moving out of the house we were in but were upside down in it and couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.  You can read all about that miraculous story here.  From paying down all that debt we were finally almost debt free but we were cash poor.  We knew we had to make that move happen.  In the meantime it built back up over 20k in debt again fixing up the old and new house and all the extras that come with a move. Add in a school trip for Sky to Europe at over $5k and other life that was turned to payments our world turned back into one of frugalness and very strategic spending.  Thank goodness for all the joy and how much we love it here, I admit it made it all worthwhile!

From January of 2015 through Sept of 2016 (21 months) – yes we managed to clear $48,986 in debt.  HOLY MOTHER!!!  I see that and it gives me hope.  We are a family that loves the simple things in life and living out here really made that easier to pull off but it has been anything but easy to make that happen.   We’ve had to say “no” hundreds of times a day to spending.   I’ve laid out all the details of how we saved money and what we did to bring in extra in this blog post for those that want to read all the nitty gritty details.

  1. We set a budget every month.  I can tell you what we spent in each area of our life for any month going back years.  I had to know exactly where all our money was going and then from there decide what to cut and what to allow.  I keep really detailed spreadsheets and I LOVE it, it must balance out my artsy side but I get a complete natural high from doing our finances and calculating all the numbers.
  2. We worked as a team.  The hubby and sat down at least a few times a month and laid out what our goals where we wanted our money to go, saw what was actually being spent, and made adjustments to get the two areas to match.  We stopped reacting to things and became very intentional.  We decided what to keep and what to cut, where to spend and tried to minimize unexpected things anywhere we could by predicting needs and planning ahead.
  3. Our entertainment budget averaged only $20 a month. FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!  That is pretty much a few redbox rentals and then add up the extra over a few months and it’s a cheap night out.  We saw 1 movie at the theatre as a family and went to 1 county fair as a family in 22 months.  We had tons of bonfires, game nights, movie nights at home and work nights.  Plus we knew that we wanted to pour money towards debt and a couple strategic vacations. (this was not counting our family vacation – where we flew then stayed with a family member)
  4. Our restaurant budget averaged $30/month.  That meant a few drive through trips a month and we saved them for when we really were short on time or energy and savored them, or we’d stock up so we could go out to dinner with family or friends.
  5. We swallowed our pride and embraced a more minimalistic lifestyle.  This was actually the most enjoyable part.  After my mom passed away, it took years of going through her things and sorting through the layers of guilt, grief and the reality of physical space that “stuff” takes up.  Year after year I was able to let go of more of it.  What happens is it becomes a bit addictive when you start to feel empty space around the house.  It’s freeing.  Craiglist, ebay and FB groups became our selling machines.  We sold and donated a TON of stuff.  I let the kids re-sell their clothing they didn’t use anymore and they could keep that money as well.  It became a family mission to live with less stuff and instead enjoy eachother more and free up more time for life.
  6. My husband packed a lunch EVERY DAY for work.  For years he ate these garbage burritos.  Super cheap and filling.
  7. I learned to make my own laundry detergent, toothpaste, from scratch recipes, cleaning supplies and more.  I did this both for cost savings and also for the health aspect of knowing what was in our products.
  8. We cut our cable and only late last year got a Roku.  We got cheap cell phone plans and have scraped by with cheap phones.  (one of my next goals is to get a phone that actually has enough memory where I can have more than 6 pictures and also have instagram, FB, gmail, yahoo and etsy apps all installed at the same time… seriously)
  9. We sold the financed car mentioned above and knocked out $12k in debt!
  10. A better interest rate on our house meant that we were paying down $400 more a month off principal than we were in the old house. We switched to a 15 year loan and had the same payment we did in our old house where we had a higher interest rate and a 30 year loan.
DSCN5990

To get the kids involved we filled a jar with beans. We used 1 bean for every $10 in debt on our last card to pay off. Here is Aspen counting beans to add to the other jar so he could see that one jar was getting almost empty and that mean we were close to being debt free!

 

Those are just a small sample of all the behind the scenes things we did while no one was looking so that we could be so “lucky”.  We had to consciously decide to not keep up with those around us who were able to go out and eat dinner out multiple times a week or month, drive fancy cars with payments or even get to buy new wardrobes each year.  Whether it was true or not we had to decide 100% that we didn’t EVER want to feel so stressed out about money again.    It’s funny, I can honestly say that over the years the times I had to make decisions based around money and feel the most consumed by thoughts of money are the years where it was the leanest.   This summer was a perfect testament to that.  In contrast to 2012 when our van broke down, we were in a panic we had no money to fix it right then nor did we have money to replace it.  So out we went that weekend and financed a $20k used SUV.   In contrast this summer our car went out, we were able to calmly share a car for a week as we assessed what to do; then we stuck to a $2,000 budget for a new car knowing that we wanted to pay cash for this car and stay out of debt. It was our true test again, our do-over to see if we’ve FINALLY learned our lesson.  2 months later and we are so happy with our decision and have zero buyers remorse.

I don’t share this to brag and I don’t share this because I don’t think people should have nice things.  I share this to offer hope to anyone out there who is feeling hopeless, feeling how I was years back facing 10’s of thousand in debt and feeling like I had no options and full of shame.   I share this to show it is possible to pay off debt and not have car payments.  It is possible to give yourself breathing room instead of living from crisis to crisis.

affirmations_change-copy

I believe life should be about surrounding ourselves with things, experiences and people that genuinely make us feel good.  Living authentically and truthfully.  Living within our financial means so we have breathing room when life hands us a curveball or a friend goes through a hard time and we then have some money to help them with.

When we aren’t paying hundreds (or thousands) in interest and debt payments each month it frees us up to be more in tune with our creativity, our goals, our truest authentic selves.  It leaves money to get select things that truly make us feel good (like art, ahem 🙂 ).  It lets us come out of survival mode and into a part of our being that we didn’t even know was there.  It takes guts and courage to get so honest and real with a spouse about every cent.  Things we think are necessities or secret spending.  It’s taken incredible amounts of self discipline. Mostly though I think it’s taken patience.  Once we decided we were done wanting to live the way we were it wasn’t like we could snap our fingers and actually be done.  No, instead that was just the beginning of years of sacrifice and years of being patient and trusting the process.  Years of feeling like some months there was only a hundred left over to pay towards debt and knowing that better months were to come.  Patience and not giving up.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

Another lesson, other people will spend your money for you unless you learn to consciously control it.  People shamed us, people judged us, people laughed at us, people talked behind our back about our choices, people didn’t take time to ask us our goals but instead assumed we were in a downward spiral.  Looking back I can only imagine what it looked like to people close to us.  Suddenly they hear we are selling the land, camper, atv, trucks, furniture… they must have been scared for us.  Wondering if one of us had a secret addiction or gambling problem.  Wondering why we were giving up all the things we loved.  What they must have thought when we sold our nice 2012 suv and got an older ’02 model with some rust.   This is the lesson we learned in humility and believing in ourselves.  The lesson in making a plan that worked best for OUR family, choosing how OUR money would be spent and then learning to not care what anybody thought.  We learned to know  in our hearts that we were doing what we had to do for the best LONG term well being of our family and put that priority over the short term sacrifices.

soldsign_larchst_sm

I am also partly sharing this just for my own self to fully grasp it and have it documented to share with our kids so they can understand all the times we said no to things.  Also because it gives me hope, after living so lean for years I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see a year of intense saving coming up, making up for lost time and creating a buffer  so the hubby can switch jobs and have more free time.  I see hope of more travel, and lets face it… some new bras.  Truthfully though I hope other things don’t change.  I love the feeling of being a team, knowing we are working towards a goal, choosing time together over things and places.  I loved saying no 900 times so that we could budget in a family vacation that we’d savor and never forget.

I’ll be back in a few days with a write up of many of the things we did to make this happen.  We’ve found inspiration in so many others before us who have paid things off.  It’s funny because in theory it doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal to not have consumer debt. Maybe that’s why we so easily get into debt, we assume we’ll fall back out of it just as easily as we fell into it.   But the truth is it was really freaking hard just to get to the point where we stopped accumulating more debt.  Our incomes both fluctuate so it was easy to live high during the good times then freak out during the slow seasons.  It’s only when we figured out how to live within the earning of the slowest seasons and then consider the busy times as bonus that things started to change.   Even just giving up cable.  It was years ago now and I in my head was remembering it as no big deal.  However, I recently found a journal of mine and I was journaling through the process of giving up cable.  It was hard!  I was going through withdrawl.  I was missing my shows I loved, I missed my ability to watch things when I wanted (thank you dvr).  I felt completely disconnected from the world.  It took a good month or so I noticed reading back through my entries before I started to really unwind and really enjoy the new quiet space in my life.

Last Saturday night, we put all four of our fingers on the computer mouse and as a family we clicked to make our LAST consumer debt payment!!!!! Then we had an epic hour long dance party.  Singing, dancing and feeling thousands of pounds of pressure being lifted.  Especially for the kids I wanted to make that night a big deal. A celebration, an end of a chapter.  A night they can use to bookmark these past few years as well.  We all gathered round and counted down and did our own private scream, yelling, “3…2…1… We’re DEBT FREEEEEEEEEE!!!”.  It was awesomely nerdy and fantastic and felt amazing.   Next up… savings and house.

I thank you for reading our story.   We are sending out love to all of you and we thank you for all your support over these last few years.  We’re saying cheers to each of you on the same journey and saying prayers for all of us; that we may be able to live with a wisdom beyond our immediate knowing that guides us in love, compassion and joy.

Noelle_Signature

The nitty gritty – behind the scenes how to pay $48k in debt off in 2 years

35things_debt

So hopefully you’ve read my other post here talking about why and the general how we got out of debt.  Let me be clear that when I say out of debt, I am referring to all debt other than our house.  Our house is a little further down the list but we wanted to take a moment and give reverance to this moment.  To paying off $48k in credit cards, principal on the house, school fees, cars and more.

Let me be really clear up front.  We busted our asses, worked a ton, sacrificed in every area we could.  But let me also say, we’ve never been happier, we’ve never felt more proud and we feel aligned with what is important in life.. not stuff but eachother.

For me saving was easiest if I could figure out ways to save behind the scenes or ways that other than a one time activity I wouldn’t have to change my daily behavior too much.  Progress came from places we could save money or places we could make money. Here are a few of those:

  1. We cut the cable.  Over the last 4 years this has saved us over $4,000.
  2. We found the lowest, most reliable internet provider we could.  We signed up for a year to get a promotional rate. Then I’d call back after our bill went up and ask nicely if they could still honor their promotional rate.  They did.
  3. We went cheap on cell phones.  We switched to Virgin Mobile and bought middle of the road phones.  No iphones for us, no phones with payment plans. Our phones could do the basics but nothing fancy, not too many apps. It was hard on me for my business and may have not been the best business move but I had to make a sacrifice here so I just went for it.  Now upgrading to a little nicer phone is on my list.
  4. Cloth diapers.  When our youngest wes little we bought a large batch of cloth diapers. They saved us hundreds of dollars a year.  I loved them. I got into a routine with them and since I worked from home while being there it was pretty easy to stay on top of them and have them not be too big of a deal.
  5. We cut back on eating out.  We cut down to $30 a month total for 4 people.  This is what worked best for our family.  Since I am home both with the kids and working I am able to make dinner each night.  This left eating out for only when we really were strapped for time or energy.   We said no a lot to eating out.  We had to be okay with being left out for a couple years, and after awhile to not be invited much to dinners.
  6. I made homemade toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners and more.  I found a diy version for everything I could.  I loved also that I knew exactly what was going into each product so I trusted their safety more and it saved us money.  Once I spent the time making these projects the time actually spent using them was identical to anyone else. So it was a one time investment of my time and researching and many share the same few products so buying them was justified even more.
  7. I sewed reusable cloths for our household.  We have these everywhere.  It’s helped us to go down to only 1-2 rolls of paper towels a year and we never buy tissues.  I would buy flannel baby blankets and wash them, then cut them apart and sew into rectangles.   dscn3970
  8. We bought a hair cutting clipper set.  I watched some youtube videos and learned how to cut my hubby and son’s hair.  This has saved us about $20/month and the time and energy of going to a salon.  I’ve cut my own hair too for the last 2 years and mostly done Sky’s.  Being a teenager she’s a bit more picky so she used some of her work money to got get some highlights and a cut a couple times a year.
  9. We bought most clothes from consignment stores or garage sales.  With the exception of a couple things for me and a few things the kids and hubby got for gifts, I became a garage sale queen.  This works especially great with a young boy.  I’ve also gotten myself barely worn champion and nike tennis shoes for a couple bucks each. Once I even found really nice Merrill dress shoes for a dollar. Amazing!
  10. Patience – there have been many times we’ve wanted something right away, especially after moving into a difference house.  The best and hardest thing was to be patient where we could. There are so many times that we can’t control what things are needed so anytime non vital things were added to our list we tried to keep our eye out for sales or checked online sites like the FB groups or craigslist.  A perfect example was this summer. The weather was getting hotter and my art studio would have the sun beating in it all morning and almost be unbearable. This would then cause the rest of the house to be hot.  So we knew it was time to get some blinds for that wall of windows and take down the super chic zebra fabric I had nailed over them.  We were actually on our way to the store to buy the blinds when there was a garage sale near our house.  We got out and found a ton of really great stuff I could re-paint and sell and then right there was a buck full of mini blinds still in their boxes.  There were 3 the exact size I needed for my studio and Bruce found 3 that fit his garage workshop windows perfectly too plus they were only 50 cents each!!!  AMAZING.  Thank you universe.
  11. We lowered our insurance costs.  For years I had been with one company, I finally agreed to have a friend who offers insurance give me a quote.  While our auto insurance went up by a couple bucks a month through her, she saved us almost $400/year on our homeowners and offered better coverage. We were stunned!
  12. We lowered our interest rate on our house.  For years we were upside down on our mortgage in our old house and couldn’t refinance. We had a 6.95% rate and it was killing our budget.  When we moved were were able to drop that to a 3.125% and get a 15 year.  This saved us instantly over $100/week in interest that instead is going to principal plus knocked over a decade off our mortgage.
  13. I had to limit my art supplies.  It’s easy to let a hobby or a business get out of control and justify every want.  I would justify endless classes, books, supplies to try new techniques and all sorts of other marketing goodies.  I loved it all.  I had to be very diligent about keep my inventory at a low yet good amount and taking home as much profit as possible these past few years.
  14. Sales – we had garage sales.  We sold clothes to consignment stores.  I sold lots over FB groups and craigslist.  I also donated lots.  It was both about getting more money into our funnel but it also was about mentally and physically clearing clutter from our lives.  I keep a lean household, if we don’t use something it’s gone.  I’ve watched too many people around me be buried by clutter and eventually not have the energy to deal with it.  I prefer thinking of things that we no longer use that our time with them is done and it’s time for someone else to get to enjoy them.
  15. We made simple things fun.  We camped, we rented most of our movies from the library for free. We had picnics and bike rides, we hung out with friends and family doing simple things. I turned down shopping invites and instead met to just hang out or go on a walk together.  I turned dinner invites into coffee dates.  We played games, had bonfires, made forts and had dance parties.  We only went out to 1 movie as a family in the last 22 months. We went to 1 county fair.  We bought a family science museum pass and also visited our local zoo.  We spent less than $240/year on entertainment. (this is separate from sports fees, school activities or vacations)
  16. We had a written budget.  We wrote down all our income.  We wrote down our monthly expenses that we knew we had, we created envelopes for once in a while expenses like toiletries, pets, gifts and we averaged what those took a month and we’d add that amount to those envelopes.  This helped keep our month to month expenses pretty even. It also took away many surprise expenses.
    1. Our envelopes- grocery, restaurant, misc, entertainment, clothing, gifts, g. sale, toiletries, chore $ for kids, each kid had an envelope for what we estimate their expenses to be each month (mostly school activities, friends events, etc), lunch $, pets, household projects, beer.  My husband agreed to only spend $20 a month on beer.  He’d then treat himself to a fun 6 pack a couple times a month of some new local brew or another favorite.
  17. We made furniture and sold it. We bought used furniture and other items and fixed them, painted them or repurposed them and sold them in our booth at a local store in town.  It created some extra income and was a fun bonding experience for us.
  18. We had to abandon our bi-annual 2 week road trip this past year and instead chose to be a bit more budget conscious and flew to where my in laws where staying for the winter.  We crashed with them for 4 days and got enjoy them and the warm weather during this past February. This cost us only 25% of what our normal 2 week road trip budget is, yet we still got to get away and have some great family time.
  19. We had to set some boundaries and say no… A LOT.  We said no a lot to the kids, we also had to say it to ourselves and those around us who would ask us to go out and do things we knew weren’t in our budget.  Sometimes this was even saying no to things that were “free” because we knew that the gas would be an expense over our budgeted amount.
  20. We had to change our thinking and instead of thinking of our available money being everything that was coming in.  Our available money was only that which we had budgeted for the month.  ALL the rest went towards debt.   We followed Dave Ramsey’s philosophy on the order we paid things down.  We started with the smallest debt and paid it off as quickly as possible.  Then we put that amount towards the next largest until that was paid off.  It helped us to see progress and also gain some momentum.
  21. We put $1000 in our savings before we did anything else.  What this savings did was help us sleep better at night, it helped in case something unexpected came up so we weren’t completely in desperation at all times.  We tried not to touch this money. The only time we did use some is when we had to buy a car this past summer.  Then we spend the following weeks building it back up instead of putting that money towards paying debt.
  22. We had to give up a lot of short term fun for the sake of long term security and genuine well being.   This meant camps for the kids were out, we cut back on hotels and some of the traveling sports.  We tried to just buy less in general.  As I mentioned in my other blog post; we sold our atv, land  up north, camper, extra trucks and more.  All with the vision of getting out of debt and preserving our energy so we could put more of both towards our bigger goals.
  23. We stopped trying to keep up with the Jones’.  Sometimes the Jones’ are relatives, best friends or even our kid’s friends.  We had to get real about all the activities we were involved in, we had to stop caring about what anyone thought about the car we drove. We got okay with being considered weird.  We had to constantly balance between being frugal and wise with money while NEVER taking on a poverty or lack mindset.  Being tight with money while also believing in abundance was a balancing act; one that I’m not sure I was able to perfectly reconcile.  Especially being an entrepreneur; there is an underbelly of that world where you dress to impress, you pay others to do things for you so you can focus on your craft and work in your genius. It would be highly frowned upon to become complete DIY’ers.  It’s true sometimes when doing that we were probably spending hours to save a few bucks.  But accumulatively it added up.  It was a lifestyle shift.  It also felt good to use our hands to create, our minds to problem solve and spend more time than ever doing simple family activities.   Some of my favorite times were having all of us outside last winter chopping and gathering wood. I loved it.
  24.  dscn0396
  25. I wore the same black dress to  many events.  I wore it with different necklaces or different jackets to change it up but I wore the same dress to my sister’s wedding, 2 funerals, many fun summer picnics, grad parties, my art studio open houses and more.  I just made do and wore it while I could.  It’s finally worn out now so I probably wouldn’t wear it out again but it sure did serve me well.   Between us, I also wore the same black dress shirt to my 20 year class reunion that I wore to the 15 year reunion… and I’m still alive nor did anyone care or notice….  What was important is I felt great wearing it. I wouldn’t have worn it if it made me feel bad, I instead chose to wear it with pride. It fit me and it carries lots of great memories with it.
  26. Gift giving – we had some big family discussions about gifts.  One thing I do differently now than I did in my 20’s… during my first marriage if money was tight we would not buy each other anything.  After that marriage fell apart, I knew there were several things I wanted to do different during my 2nd marriage. One of those things is honoring my spouse and not being a martyr or so self sacrificing that we don’t get each other gifts. They don’t even have to cost much but it’s the energy behind someone being able to put thought into someone and show they care. I value that so much now. Even if it’s flowers cut from the yard there is a different energy to that than saying lets not get anything. There are times we would also go out to an event for our gift instead of a thing too.  For others I created gifts where I could, got creative with some so we could do them on a budget. I still love to give so we just had to do it carefully.  We started to draw names for our relatives instead of buying for everyone.  Here are a few of the fun things we’ve made over the past few years to give hand made wreaths and coat/jewelry racks:
  27.  img_20141123_182527_011 dscn0283
  28. We quit the gym.  We moved to 6 acres now so we try to get outside each day.  We were also gifted a treadmill, this has been a life saver especially during the winter months.
  29. We kept each other motivated.  There were many times we were exhausted over the last few years.  Especially when you factor in the couple years of half assing trying to pay things off before that.  We had to keep our eye on the prize.  We talked a lot about dreams we have. What we will do someday when we don’t have a house payment.  We made sure to build each other up and be a great team instead of turning on each other or blaming.   There were times I felt isolated, especially after moving out here further and working from home.  I now homeschool our youngest also. While 95% of the time I absolutely love it all there are moments where I crave being around the hustle and bustle a bit.  So now I try to plan ahead so I don’t get depleted and instead every few weeks plan to run errands in the cities or be out and about and see family or friends.
  30. We’re teaching our kids that things will not buy you long term happiness.  Even the house we bought now is not large. We chose a house that was just big enough for us but also small enough that we can keep up with it and possibly grow old here.  I am always making sure the kids don’t have too much clutter, they re-sell toys or movies and put it towards new things. They are learning about budgeting and have both also done chores to earn money.  We try to create experiences with them and focus on those more than things. They are well loved and live amazing lives, my hubby and I took on most of the sacrifice but I do think it was important to let them feel just enough of the weight of this experience to help them stay out of debt in their adult lives.
  31. We take good care of the things we have.  My computer is 5+ years old.  Our cars, our lawnmower, our clothes.  We try to treat our things well. We wash them, we mend them, we be careful with them in the first place.  This has helped us in many ways being able to extend the lives of some of our biggest expenses.
  32. I hang our laundry.  Outside in the summer, inside in the winter.  Thankfully now we have a laundry room but for years I’d stretch out pieces across our living room to dry.  Now it doesn’t take up the whole house but it’s a win-win. It saves energy and it adds moisture back into the air of our home in the winter when it tends to get very dry.
  33. While we were completely frugal in some ways we also believe in luxuries where we can. For us that mean buying organic food whenever possible, having life insurance and hiring an amazing photographer for family photos every few years.  There were a few times we were able to donate to fundraisers for causes close to our heart.   I read blogs about how people can only spend $100 per person on groceries per month but for us that never seemed doable.  Our monthly grocery budget was $800/month. But as mentioned earlier we only spend $30/month on restaurants so that is the majority of our eating.  I also don’t drink except a couple times a year so there isn’t much spent on drinks and we very rarely have soda in our house.  It’s mostly water, milk or homemade almond milk.   We also made sure we all have life insurance.  We had 2 parents pass away in the last decade. My mom had life insurance and it gave my dad breathing room to take care of things. My hubby’s dad did not and I watched the complete stress his wife felt as she tried to pay for expenses and their day to day life. It left an imprint on me
  34. We bought organic, non gmo seeds and started them inside this spring.  We then grew lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (many are now pickles), and other foods and herbs in our garden ourselves for a fraction of what they cost in the store.  We are hoping to expand this each year as our knowledge base grows and our time is no longer spent on so many house projects we’ll have more to invest in growing our own food.   We saved many food containers to start the seeds in and now this summer I got 2 large stacks of starter pots for free that I’ll use to transplant the sprouts into once they get too big for the small starter containers.  (we use applesauce cups).
  35. We heat our house using a wood boiler.  This was a large cost up front to get a wood burner that then heats the water that runs through our garage floor and our house but we now are able to use our downed trees in this burner to heat our house all winter.  This is more of my hubby’s department since my knowledge on it is limited but that is what I do know. For us, living on 6 wooded acres it’s been a perfect fit.
  36. We transitioned to LED bulbs.  The cost of LED had come down greatly the last few years but for us even back a couple years ago we transitioned each bulb as it burned out. Some we used CFL then transitioned those to LED as we could.
  37. We stayed out of malls and stores as much as possible.  I stopped using store credit cards and praising myself on how much I saved.  Instead we just stopped shopping and found other hobbies.  We literally only shopped to buy what we needed.
  38. We sat and talked a couple times a month about our budget.  We compared notes, we’d do our best to predict any possible expenses for each new month.  We’d go back over past months and see where we over spent or where we did good.  I LOVED these meetings.  I could talk about our budget and lay out spreadsheets and goals and dreams for days.  But I learned that my hubby didn’t share my enthusiasm. For him he liked a bullet points meeting and also needed to hear about what was being paid.  In the years prior to these past 2 hard core ones, I learned he was going to work every day for years but would only ever see that our bank account was just enough to cover bills.  So now communicating better he could see how much debt was being paid off and how great his and our hard work was indeed paying off.
  39. We try to never do anything with payment plans, even zero interest.  We don’t charge things and we aim to pay cash for everything possible.  It helps us to shift our thinking into the big picture cost of something instead of monthly cost.   We also only pay cash for cars now.   Our goal is to get our house paid off early and then only pay cash if we ever buy another.
DSCN5982

Life’s full circle moment. After selling the trucks, the atv, the camper. We have a fun jeep to plow the driveway and do some heavy lifting… and it’s paid for. 🙂

Mostly, it’s important to know that we had to find what worked for us.  I know that some of our situation is unique, but I encourage you to find what can work for you.  You may be lucky to have much more income to work with than we were, awesome.  Think of it as a bigger shovel to dig yourself out.  I do know this; people are in debt at all income levels.  There are a few that aren’t bothered by it (maybe like us years ago, thinking we had it all handled) other people are going to be with knots in their stomachs trying to figure out what to do.  I’ve spent way too many nights of my life with that feeling and I hope to NEVER have it again.  I can’t control all of life’s circumstances but we have decided to control what we can and get ourselves in a better situation.  Let me tell you… eating peanut butter sandwiches feels better than eating out when you know you’ve got your bills paid.  There is such a peace of mind that happens as things are paid off.  Plus, it’s an amazing journey to go on as a family. It’s hard and you have to get really real and vulnerable but the reward is looking the real you in the mirror and feeling incredibly proud.

I know there are many people who have their house paid for, tons in the bank for retirement and are just fine.  I celebrate you.   But I know for every one of you, there are tons of us here in the trenches where every dollar and five dollar decision can make a big difference in our days and years.

I offer you all the cheerleading and support I can if you see yourself in any of our story.  If you are buried so deep you don’t know how you can dig yourself out.  I offer you hope.  I offer you hope if you are someone who hopes to be home with your babies, or someone who hopes to be able to live in a different area or just feel internal peace.

We’re all on our own journeys and ours is full of hiccups and ways we coulda/shoulda did things different.  Let’s all give each other some grace and love and cheer each other on. I don’t know anyone out there who needs people to judge them or shame them.  I just offer support and encouragement for you and for myself to keep on keeping on and doing the best with what we can control.

Wishing you a life where you can have authentic joy, creative dreams and peaceful sleeps.

Noelle_Signature

Thrifty Thursday – pallet side table

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

Fun side table – from pallets

My hubby is lucky enough to get these great fee pallets every once and awhile from work, we love making fun projects from them.  I was using two tv trays in front of a window to hold our plants, it was time to make something more permanent.  We found some table legs that had been in our garage for years, we never knew what to do with them.  I drew up some plans and had my hubbs help me make this.

pallet2

 

Bruce assembling the top and bracing onto the legs.

Aspen helping out too:

palletsidetable1

 

All finished!  Here it is before I paint it:

pallet1table

 

I love the painting part, lots of water mixed with paint to “age” the wood.  Then fun pops of reds, teals, greens, browns, whites.  Partially just colors I enjoy and partially to match our decor.   The legs were a blackish/green when we pulled them out of the wood pile. Originally I planned on painting the whole table white but once it was together I loved the contrast.  I instead added some touches of color to the legs, a bit of copper, browns, and reds. I love the final result:

pallet_table_Final copy

This setup means so much to me.  The legs came from my dad years ago.  Aspen helped me paint the flower pots.  The plants are from my ex-father-in-laws funeral. The metal cage used to be my moms along with the lamp on the bottom shelf.  Skylar painted the frame on the bottom left and it has her picture in it.  The silhoette on the bottom is of my mom, the painting behind it is one by Aspen.  And the cardinals on the top shelf were a gift from me to Bruce, they are two cardinals snuggled up together.   Whew, a table build by me and my love and full of meaningful things from people around me present and past.  Love love love.

NoelleSignature_Small

Thrifty Thursday – How to make big bucks at your next yard sale

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

 

Garage sales and yard sales are in full swing this time of year.  

A few weeks ago we made over $1400 at our yard sale.  It was amazing!  Even better was that it was all donated towards my trip to Israel and Palestine in the fall.

 

Unfortunately just a week later I watched my neighbor attempt to do a garage sale.   I say attempt on purpose because they are losing out on hundreds of dollars in sales by missing out on some basic things.

I’ve watched them:

  • put in weeks worth of setup work
  • days of multiple people working their sale
  • not displaying things well
  • not advertising
  • poor signage
  • no prices on things
  • putting the wrong things in view
  • sleeping in and not starting until after 9am

They have had very little success.   How is it that there was less than 20 people that showed up to there sale just 1 week after over 200+ people showed up to mine right next door?

 

Are you like my neighbor?   Have you spent way too many hours on a garage sale only to make poor sales?  Are you needing to clear out some clutter to make room in your home for things that you really love?   I’ve been there.  I’ve had those sales where I’ve gone home with a hundred bucks and scratched my head wondering what I did wrong.

 

I can help.  

Introducing my new Girlfriends guide to bringing in Big Bucks at  your next yard sale ebook.   

Girlfriends_YardSale_Tips_Cover_etsy

This downloadable PDF includes 9 pages full of steps and tips.

We’ll cover topics like:
Getting Ready
Timing
Location
Pricing
Setup
Advertising, Getting the Word out
How to deal with hagglers and people who want a deal on everything.
Collecting the money
After the sale.


Of course I can’t guarantee what amount of money you’ll make but I can help you turn what you have into the best sale you can do. I know my guide will more then pay for itself and will help save you a TON of energy spent on doing the wrong things.

 

You can find the guide in my Etsy store now.

 

Only $6!

 

Make sure to pass along the link to your friends and family members that are planning sales.

 

Cheers to a summer of AMAZING sales!!

Thrifty Thursdays – Bulk Garbage Burritos

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

My husband and I are constantly on the lookout for easy meals for him to take to work.  I also wanted some healthy and easy meals for me and the kids.  So we bought these tortillas one day from Costco and I started looking around the house to see what else we had here.  I added some beans, rice, chicken (for him) and other goodies.  These have been a huge hit.  They are super cheap and easy.   Keep in mind that I’m am far from being a chef/cook.  So if I have left any pertinent information out just ask and I’ll add it in.

GarbageBurrito_NoelleRollinsArt

Here is the recipe.  Feel free to add what you love or take out what you don’t:

GarbageBurritos_Recipe

Thrifty Thursdays – Pallet fun

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

 

I am amazed at all the awesome things people do with pallets.  I’ve read some incredible blogs about people who have done entire floors of them and they look amazing if done right.  Pinterest is a super fun place to check out more ideas.

When I got my art studio last year I needed a cost effective, fun, artsy table solution. One that didn’t seem intimidating to paint on, drip on and felt like it fit in my studio.

My awesome hubby helped me build a table and shelves. I wanted to share.

You can find free pallets behind buildings; just ask them first.  Almost always they’ve told me to help myself when I’ve asked.  When using pallets also do some research, some are made with toxic coatings, so do an online search and there is plenty of info on what to look for to make sure they’re safe to be in your home.

 

PalletTableBuilding

OversizedPalletTable

DSCN0452

After I closed the studio I painted the table white so it’s be a bit more neutral:

1PalletTable

 

I also sell a prints mounted on pallet boards.  It’s been a really fun way to showcase art with a urban/upcycled feel:

100_8136

 into this:

    IMG_20120612_114315

Enjoy!  Happy Creating.

 

Thrifty Thursdays – Covered bench makeover

 

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

 

I absolutely love to find solid wood furniture that just needs a little pick me up.  This looked great in the room it was in but my daughter wanted it for her Paris, hip themed room. So some black paint and funky zebra fabric and viola! Beautiful and new feeling.  Enjoy!

For this one we unscrewed the top from the base. Painted the base with primer then black paint.  Using heavy duty staples I stapled the new fabric to the underside of the top.  Picturing the top as a clock, staple at 12 o’clock, then 6, then 3, then 9.  Then fill in the spaces between. Making sure to pull taught and even.  Screw back on the base and your set.

 

BenchMakeover

What are your favorite furniture makeovers? I’d love to hear.

 

 

 

 

Thrifty Thursdays – End Table Makeover

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

End Table Makeover

I LOVE to get my hands on ugly furniture and make them over.  Sometimes I do intricate painting on them other times I just need something to match my decor and I know I’ll change it again later.

This is an end table my sweet mother in law gave me, she knew I could find a way to paint it and give it an updated look.  I’m going to be repainting it soon after our home remodel is done but it did it’s job well while being carried around tons by the 3 year old. I intentionally scratched it up a bit when I did it. This gave it a distressed look right away and no one was afraid to use it.  If I was doing a more permanent job on it I would have sanded it well and primed it first before painting.  For what I needed it for just painting it seemed to work just fine.  Enjoy! Do you ever paint paint furniture to match a wall in your house?  Even if it’s a trendy one that you know you’ll be re-painting?  I’d love to hear your makeover stories! Share in the comments below.

EndTableReel

Thrifty Thursdays – Cheap and easy Breakfast Skillet

RichandCreativeThrifty_Header copy

Cheap & Easy Breakfast Skillet:

We are OBSESSED with this in my home right now.  It has a variety of food groups and it pretty simple and CHEAP!

It includes:

  • 2.5 lbs cups Diced Potatoes (3 large potatoes)   (Cost: $1.13 for 2.5 lbs. We buy the 20lb bag from costco for about $9.  We’ve also used organic potatoes, for that we paid $3.69/lb at Aldi.  So for 2.5 lbs it’d be $3.08)
  • 1/4 c. Vegetable oil (we had this so I’m gonna guess $0.20)
  • 1 medium onion (.25)
  • 1 diced tomato  (We got a 5 pack of roma tomatoes from Aldi on sale for $1.00  so for 1 tomato it’s $0.20)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese ($2.00 for a block of cheddar at aldi,  we used 1/2 of it.  So for 1/2 it was $1.00)
  • 1/2 cup chopped brocolli ($4.59 for 48oz at Costco  = 4oz for $0.38
  • 3 eggs  (we use organic from Costco, $6.50 for 2 dozen, so about $0.27 each;  $0.81 total)

= Total of $3.97 for a huge skillet breakfast for 4 people!  AMAZING

Optional:   chopped fresh spinach, other veggies

Instructions: Chop the potatoes into 1/2″-1″ squares.  Heat up the oil in a large frying pan over med/medium low heat.  Add in potatoes.  Cover and allow to cook, stirring every 5 minutes.  After 30 minutes add in chopped onion.  Continue cooking until potatoes are tender and starting to crisp.  Then add in veggies, I add in a few Tablespoons of water here and re-cover, it helps steam the veggies.  Start making scrambled eggs in a separate pan (or make before you start the skillet and set aside).  Then top the potato mixture with the scrambled egged and shredded cheese.  Serve immediately.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

We used to  buy hash browns and diced potatoes already chopped, shredded. But when we realized what the savings were if we would do that ourselves we dove in and have been doing it ourselves ever since. PLUS we know there are no extra added ingredients that we don’t like.

Some more pics:

 

I’d love to hear what your favorite breakfast recipes are!  Share in the comments below: