Can you believe it? Just three years ago, we started blogging.
Our voyeurism into the personal finances of others became such that we felt the need to dive right in near the beginning of our own journey to fully participate in the community and to hold ourselves accountable while we paid off of our debt.
Where We Were Three Years Ago
Our mindset at the outset of this journey was not without its faults. We were quite nearly on the verge of taking on another huge mortgage in order to downsize to a smaller, custom home. We figured the student loans would pay themselves off over the 9 years left in the repayment process. And credit card debt, well, it’s the American way, right? Doesn’t everyone have car payments, too?
We were poster children for American consumerism and waste, tossing clothes after a few months, spending thousands at restaurants, buying new cars, and just simply disregarding how inflated our lifestyle had become. But there was this nagging feeling that there had to be more to life than this. This American Dream was beginning to feel like an interest-driven nightmare.
A few weeks before starting the blog, I was leaving my part-time job in favor a full-time gig with a local marketing agency and we were trying to downsize our home. We started our blog with $204,971.31 in debt, which included credit card debt, mortgage debt, and student loan debt.
We were also overweight and fighting fatigue on a daily basis. Our daily schedule involved getting ready for work, going to work, working, coming home from work, decompressing from work, and then the usual home and cat maintenance items. As Your Money or Your Life puts it, we were making a dying, not a living.
After our cathartic moment, we decided to try something new and get off the hamster wheel of debt and consumption. We decided debt was something we could no longer afford to waste our precious time and energy on. We decided to get our act together!
Blogging made us self-reflect on our choices. Connecting with the personal finance community gave us hope that there was a way out of this mess, as well as plenty of ideas on how to better manage money.
Where We Were One Year Ago
From a personal finance perspective, we’re at a radically different place now than we were in 2015, but I won’t belabor the point.
We’re 100% debt free as of March 2017.
I’d like to thank the Academy…of Mint.
Debt freedom feels amazing. Seriously, it’s so awesome. I say this not to gloat but to encourage others who are on the journey to debt freedom. (Keep it up! It’s worth it at the end. I can’t stress that enough.)
What surprised me most about debt freedom, the thing that’s most amazing to me today is the clarity. My mind is clear.
Living with debt on my mind daily was like looking into a muddy river and not being able to see the bottom.
Debt freedom is like looking into the same river and being able to see the bottom.
I don’t think a day went by in which I wasn’t thinking about debt. Debt consumed me and my thoughts. I didn’t even think I could dream when we were in debt, except for the dream of being debt free. In my mind, I couldn’t get beyond the debt and felt that I could achieve little else until we eliminated it.
But those days seem long gone now.
What’s left to do? Achieving financial independence May 18, 2019.
Now, you know I love me some lofty goals. I could tell you that we’re going to bump up our date, use the magic of time and pressure to make FI happen next year through our entrepreneurial endeavors.
But I’ve learned an important lesson and that is to enjoy the gift that is the present and to stop living only for the future…to slow down a little and enjoy the ride. Whether we are financially independent or not, we’re working today to craft the life we want now and in the future.
Where We Are Today
It’s been three years since we started a side hustle.
It’s been two and a half years since we moved into the “tiny” house.”
It’s been one year since we paid off all of our debt.
It’s been four months since we started dividend investing in our brokerage account.
It’s been one month since we purchased Dennis, our vanlife minivan. Wow!
Today, we’re grateful for how far we’ve come. We’re happy with where we are in our lives…but we’ll keep making progress on that FIRE goal. 😉
The Life-changing Consequences of Blogging
Because of what we’ve learned from personal finance bloggers and podcasters, we made all the changes we felt were necessary to fix our situation.
Having our own blog about our personal finance journey helped us hold ourselves accountable as we absorbed the wealth of knowledge from the personal finance blogosphere.
Here’s exactly how blogging has changed us.
1. Blogging about money made us aware of how much we were overspending and how that kept us in debt.
Personal finance bloggers and podcasters helped us learn how to stop wasting money on a bigger house than we needed, more clothes than we could wear in a month, mediocre restaurant meals purchased out of sheer laziness, and so on.
Thanks to Cait Flanders, we went on a clothes shopping ban, which saved us thousands of dollars each year.
Thanks to the Frugalwoods, we stopped going to restaurants and started meal planning at home in favor of taking lunches to work, which saved us thousands of dollars each year.
Thanks to J. Money of Budgets are Sexy, we challenged all of our “fixed” expenses, like utilities and insurance, saving us hundreds of dollars each year.
2. Blogging about clutter made us aware of just how much stuff we had that we didn’t need.
Because of minimalism, we also challenged the assumptions we had about stuff and space.
Our big house was full of wasted space and stuff we never used, so we put the house on the market and sold or donated most of our stuff. We literally had four rooms in our home that went unused. We put our big house on the market and moved into a smaller, energy-efficient home of 536 sq ft, which we call our “tiny” house.
What’s life like in a small house? It’s unbearable. Just kidding. It’s awesome.
Reading occupies the space where TV programs lived. Hiking instead of shopping. Writing instead of whining. Changing instead of complaining. We’re doing stuff now with the time and money we saved by downsizing to a smaller house.
3. Blogging about what we really want out of life made us aware of our mindsets about money.
I spent far too many years talking myself out of everything, using excuse after excuse to explain away why I wasn’t leading the fulfilling life I sought. I was scared to move in the direction of my dreams because of debt and a scarcity mindset.
Personal finance made me focus on the choices I made that brought me to where I am today, so I know I only have myself to blame (or thank) for the challenges (or opportunities) in my life (for the most part).
Personal finance made me take responsibility for my choices and my approach. Today, I choose an abundance mindset and mindful spending.
4. Blogging about lifestyle design made me think about entrepreneurship.
After completing the DISC assessment at my old full-time job, I realized that employment in the traditional sense wasn’t for me. The DISC confirmed every career-related struggle I had to find my fit and what it was that I used to dread about going to work.
Today, I’m self-employed and it’s exactly what fits my personality. If we hadn’t started a money blog, I’d have no idea I was an entrepreneur at heart.
Having our own business also fits in well with the location-independent life we seek after FIRE.
Part of our business helps side hustlers learn digital marketing skills they can use to make money. Side hustling is what we want to focus on full time. We’re truly passionate about supporting and encouraging others’ journeys via the side hustle. And the other part of our business focuses on helping business owners. 🙂
I love being in marketing. I love being able to help others. I love that I can work from any location!
5. Blogging about financial independence/early retirement made us think about investing.
Before our money blog, we were clueless about investing. Both of us invested in our employer retirement accounts to get the match, but that’s it. I don’t even remember what we were investing in.
Spending two years getting out of debt gave us a whole lot of time to read through hundreds of other money blogs and consider the investing strategies for FIRE they’re interested in since we were investing very little during that time.
Having all that time to read gave us plenty of time to consider for ourselves a whole bunch of strategies, everything from buy other businesses to real estate investing to dividend investing, which was ultimately where we landed.
6. Blogging made us some new friends.
Find your tribe. We found ours at FinCon. *hint hint* 🙂