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This past month, for the first time in our adult lives, my husband and I did not have to pay someone else for the house we live in.
We did, of course, set aside money in the sinking fund we have set up to cover our annual property taxes, but for the very first time, we did not pay a landlord or a mortgage lender.
Our house is just that – ours. We are truly homeowners at last.
I must say that life is so peaceful without debt.
That doesn’t mean we’re lying back anytime soon though. As wonderful as it is to finally be completely free of debt, it was not our end goal. On the contrary, we view it is as just the beginning.
Which brings me to the reason for this first post in a brand new series of monthly savings updates that will now replace my previous mortgage payoff updates.
In the personal finance world, we hear a lot from people paying off debt. We are overloaded with information from gurus, coaches, self-proclaimed experts and people who have “made it.”
But there is not much out there from people in the awkward stage in between.
This awkward stage is where we are now, and I believe there are a lot of people out there like us, stumbling around, not sure what their next move should be.
I posted on Instagram at the end of January that we had saved $90.12 after paying off our house, and I listed what our focus will be for the rest of the year:
- Emergency fund replenishment
- Home renovations
- Hotels, transportation and savings for our upcoming trip to Russia for The FIFA World Cup
- Savings for our first property
I received so many messages afterward from people thanking me for continuing to document our journey as we move forward from having debt, as there is just not much information out there from people in the same position.
I’m excited to share the next stage of our lives as we learn, succeed and fail so that others can learn from us and hopefully avoid making the mistakes that we will inevitably make.
Starting out, I went into Baby Step 7 a little too ambitiously, convinced that we could live on my husband’s base pay of $2400 per month while using the rest of our income to build back our emergency fund, then immediately begin saving for our first property. Since we make about $6000 per month, the idea of saving at least 60% of our income greatly appealed to me.
Doing this is entirely feasible, but not very desirable. It would require squeezing hotel costs and savings for our trip, as well as savings for our home renovations, into that $2400 budget. Now that we have no debt to our names, we feel that we have earned the privilege to live on more than beans and rice. Therefore, we decided that saving for our first property will be put on the back burner until the second half of the year, allowing us to focus on replenishing our emergency fund, saving for Russia in June and working on a couple rooms that we’ve dreamed of updating the past several years.
Loosening up a little allowed us to experience things in February that we had given up during the duration of our marriage.
We added a line item to the budget for clothes – unnecessary, eventless clothes. As our mortgage came to an end, I had my eye on two pairs of ankle boots. After we put our February budget together, I was pleased to find that they went on sale for $20 each and snagged both of them. My husband recently went back to wearing plain clothes at work instead of a suit every day, and he was glad to add some basics back to his wardrobe.
For the first time since our wedding in April 2016, a manicure was also added to the budget. While having my nails painted, I was caught off guard when I started feeling a little emotional, thinking about how far I’ve come in the almost two years since I had stepped foot in that salon. I enjoyed every second of the experience and found myself looking around at the other women in the salon, wondering if they felt a level of appreciation anywhere close to what I was feeling at that moment.
Until earlier this week, we had been sleeping on a full-size bed that had been in my Granny’s guest room when I was growing up, so we were beyond excited to use some of this month’s savings for a new, king-size mattress set – a first for both of us. The planets seem to have aligned for this purchase. We bought the last mattress at a local store that sells them with slight imperfections for extremely low prices. Kohl’s had their down comforters on sale for half off, and we found two sets of 1100 thread count sheets at Walmart for $19 each that were left over from Black Friday. Add the inexpensive rails we found at Walmart, a new pillow and a bed skirt, we spent a total of $549.52. We counted to three as we peeled the sheets back, climbed into bed together and had the best sleep of our lives.
Another purchase we made with part of this month’s savings was a one night Airbnb stay for $164.26 at one of the cities in Russia in which we will be attending a FIFA World Cup match. We waited until we received our second travel hacking credit card so that we can begin making headway on this new spending limit. This is the first of nine stays that we need to book for the trip, and I will share much more on this after we book the rest of them. Update: Learn more about our trip here.
Even after these purchases, we added $3,564.84 to our emergency fund, bringing it up to $3,654.96 after the small amount we managed to contribute to it after finishing out our mortgage last month.
Moving forward to March, you can find our updated budget here. We also plan to finish out our emergency fund, book hotels for the rest of our trip and have our contractor finish one of our living rooms.
I can’t wait to share the details with you guys.
If you’re debt free, I would love to hear what you’re focusing on now. Did you do what you expected you would after becoming paying off your debt, or did you find that, like me, your plan needed to shift a little?
Please share my post using the social media icons below to help me reach out to others who may be in the awkward stage after becoming debt free and aren’t sure what comes next.