Last week, I attended a trade show in Chicago where I was able to meet up with my friend Even Steven — check out his story and plan for financial independence! Taking this online community we’re part of into our offline lives is amazing and I highly recommend!
Catch up with lots of friends this spring made me pause and reflect on the progress we’ve made along our financial independence journey. Between Mint’s handy charts and our own self-reflections, we found that the moment we credited as the “beginning” wasn’t. Actually, we’ve had a lot of financial independence false starts along the way.
July-August 2011: False Start #1
At the end of July and into August 2011, we traveled throughout much of the southwest on a two-week excursion better known as our honeymoon. 🙂 It was glorious! The hiking couldn’t be beat. Neither of us wanted the trip to end, so we wondered…
How can we extend our vacation?
Do we just move here instead?
What’s the housing situation like?
What do we do for jobs?
What do we do with the house in PA?
A quick review of our employment options and debt situation cast a shadow on our relocation desires. Between the mortgage, auto loans, and student loan debts, we had a mountain of debt between us that made relocation seem impossible.
However, another situation presented itself that forced us to reconsider our debt-filled lives.
Upon return from our honeymoon, Garrett left for weeks for work reasons. His old job required a significant amount of travel before and after our wedding, but the timing of this particular trip was the absolutely worst. We knew this was no way to live as newlyweds, let alone any other time in our life. His demanding work schedule and constant caused us to look seriously into the way out, which I now refer to as our financial independence beginning.
Throughout August 2011, I looked at everything from our current finances to employment and more. Southern Utah in the midst of a recession didn’t offer a lot in the way of jobs. Given the number of auctions in our area, it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to sell the big house. I gave up. Garrett was tired from all the travel, so he gave up, too. Changing our entire lives to get where we wanted to go seemed impossible.
September 2011-April 2012: False Start #2
Realizing that finances were our first problem, especially since we had just married and joined our accounts, we started using Mint to get the big picture. If we can solve the problem of our finances, we can figure out how to relocate.
Yikes. The picture was grim. How could we have so much debt?
Car loans – you betcha
House – one big house
Student loans – lots of those, too
Credit card debt – yeah, of course
Ok. That’s how. We had the total. We had our debates about how to tackle it. We realized quickly that decreasing our debt was the goal, so we decided on a debt snowball strategy before we realized that’s what it was called. In 2011, we did absolutely no research into personal finance. All we did was decide that we wanted to get to zero debt as quickly as possible so we could relocate. Between fall 2011 and spring 2012, we made some progress…
We paid off one car loan!
We paid off Garrett’s student loans!
We paid off our credit card debt!
We thought everything was coming together. We had visible progress. So what did we do?
We traded in a car for a newer car (and a car loan). Then, I went to graduate school where I accumulated a few more student loans.
Every Winter: False Starts #3, #4, #5
Notice the relationship between our debt and summer? We remodeled the big house, which we proceeded to work on each summer. In the winter, we’d get serious about paying off debt. Come summer, all of our financial goals went out the window. Rinse and repeat.
Related Post: Is Investing in Home Improvement a Myth?
March 2015-present: We’re Serious Now!
After suppressing our wanderlust long enough, we decided to get our act together. We started reading up on personal finance. We started this blog. We put the big house up for sale. We sold stuff. We donated stuff. We cut our spending.
Fortunately, we’ve sold the big house, which significantly reduced our debt. We keep cutting our spending by challenging on-going expenses. We’re also working on increasing income. I think we just might reach our lofty goal for 2016. 🙂
Update: We hit our lofty goal in 2017.
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