Where We Stand With Our Debt

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It’s been a while since I’ve talked money, but a reader asked how we were doing with our debt after I initially paid off my $50,000 in debt almost seven years ago (before my wife and I got married).

Here’s the quick answer on where we stand – we don’t have any short term debt. I drive my wife’s 2003 Toyota 4Runner with 178k miles on it, and she drives the Volvo we bought with cash a few months ago. We pay off our credit cards in full every month, and we even managed to pay for our round the world trip with the money we made off of renovating and selling our house in New Orleans.

We have a mortgage, but we kept well within the 2x income rule, so it’s affordable. We don’t have any immediate plans of paying it off, but we took a 7 year arm mortgage, so we hope to either have it paid off or expect to move by then!

Here’s what I think has helped stay in control of our money:

  • We’re on the same page financially
  • We enjoy experiences more than buying “things”
  • We work hard to spend less than we make
  • We’ve continued to increase our incomes through job changes and promotions
  • We’ve lived off of one income since 2009 (and saved/invested/paid for renovations with the other salary)
  • We’re not afraid to buy and drive used cars
  • We invest a healthy chunk of our incomes

As I mentioned in my post last week, we are working hard to get somewhere with our saving and investing. We may not know exactly what that is yet, but I think we’re getting closer!

What’s Your Point?

Maybe we found freedom in Nepal... yes, so what's your point?

You might have noticed my blogging activity has slowed to a trickle in the last few months and what used to be weekly blogs are lucky to occur even monthly. My time has mostly been taken up by work as I received a promotion and now manage a global team, but it’s also taken up heavily by our new renovation project – which is about 75% complete after six months. We’re finally getting to normalcy in our house as our kitchen is nearly complete, so I plan to get back to blogging.

However, there’s another reason my blogging has slowed: my wife and I are still mentally floating after we returned from our round the world trip last year (ok, actually returned Nov 2013, does that make it two years ago???). We moved to Dallas, bought a house, fully reentered the workforce, and are both quite busy with work, but we’re somehow lost. We’ve gone from a state of near total freedom back to work servitude and our minds won’t let us fully adapt.

I can’t remember the name of the book I read it in, but a line that stuck in my head since was that it’s easier to never give freedom in the first place than to give freedom and then try taking it away. We had freedom and we’ve voluntarily given it away, but for obvious reasons like we couldn’t be nomads forever and we didn’t have an endless amount of money to blow. However, we know the type of lifestyle we prefer, and now the challenge is making it happen.

What’s Your Point?

Continue reading “What’s Your Point?” »

The Northern Lights in Iceland

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One year ago we were returning from our around the world trip – five continents and 25 countries over 9 months of travels. We saw some incredible things along the way, but the most incredible event came two nights before we came home. I’ll probably write a post about what it’s like a full year after returning, but for now, I’ll let you enjoy the pictures the we took while experiencing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights, Iceland

They started as a faint green line across the sky – so faint that you could hardly see it with the naked eye. After I noticed some green in the picture I took outside the hotel, I grabbed Jocelyn and we headed out to find a good place. We then waited for about an hour before it really started happening.

Our picture end front of the Northern Lights

It started with a single band and then started expanding out across the sky

Continue reading “The Northern Lights in Iceland” »

Why I almost bought a bus

Why I almost bought a bus

I didn’t have a business plan, I had no idea what it takes to maintain a bus, I don’t have a commercial driver’s license, and I have no place to park a bus. There are a thousand reasons why I have no business in owning a bus. So why did I almost buy one?

It all started when we were traveling and we fell in love with the idea of running a mobile retail business after seeing the “RE: START” mall in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was intended to be a temporary mall after the terrible earthquake destroyed 80% of their downtown, but soon they realized the converted shipping containers could be permanent. We definitely saw the potential of doing the same thing in the United States.

However, the logistics always presented a problem – I’d have to buy a big truck and a crane attachment to move them around. That’s on top of the expense of converting the storage container into a suitable shop. So I kept thinking. Continue reading “Why I almost bought a bus” »

Breaking from the Script?

Break from the script

The first time I saw the new Audi commercial, I knew it should be the new identity of my site. No more following the same path as everyone else… no more making bad money decisions that keep you chained to your job. Breaking from the script – I’m all in!

Oh wait, they’re telling us the way to break from the script is to buy a brand new Audi (starting at $32,500)? Come on Audi, we’re smarter than that.

The real way to break from the script is to buy a car you can afford by keeping it under 20% of your annual income. If you spend more than that, your chances of breaking from the script will decrease dramatically.

For some more fun, read the comments in the “How much car you can afford” post… it’s up over 100 and interesting to see how people agree and disagree with the rule.

Mattress Moving

Mattress Moving

I’m not sure what’s more hazardous – moving a mattress without properly tying it down or living with a journalist! Well, last week I experienced a dangerous combination of both when we went to purchase a new mattress for our guest bedroom. We were literally going less than a mile and staying under 30 mph, so I wasn’t concerned about tying the mattress down – even though we had tie-downs in the car.

A few blocks into our journey, my wife told me it looked like the mattress was lifting up. I wasn’t too concerned, but I pulled into the far right lane and slowed down a bit.  Well, apparently that wasn’t enough!

“Uh, our mattress is on the street” my wife said in a calm voice that made the improbable seem unlikely.  But oh yes, I looked back in my mirror and saw our mattress on the street with cars swerving around it!  Luckily, no one wrecked into each other or ran over it as we drove around the block to come back and get it.  The mattress made it unscathed, but my reputation may not have! Continue reading “Mattress Moving” »

Home Renovation, Part II

The kitchen always takes the longest!

After three years and a total renovation to our old house in New Orleans house, there were times we said we’d never do it again. However, most of the time we realized we like doing it and felt very rewarded when it was all said and done. The financial reward also made it worthwhile as it paid for our Round the World trip!

We weren’t determined to buy a fixer upper in Dallas, but it was always a possibility. We put one offer on a house that was move in ready and two offers on houses that were pretty much full gut jobs. I cringe when I say “gut job” because Jocelyn kept calling the house we purchased one before we started renovations and I kept saying it wasn’t… but now I think she’s right!

It doesn't look too bad in pictures, but it was in need of a full cosmetic upgrade

It doesn’t look too bad in pictures, but it was in need of a full cosmetic upgrade

Some of the work was obvious – we’d have to replace the electrical, redo all of the floors, and re-texture and paint all of the walls. Technically, it wasn’t a gut job because we weren’t going down to the studs, and we weren’t going to do our kitchen yet. The house didn’t look too bad in pictures, but when walking through it was obvious that major work hadn’t been done in the last fifty years. Continue reading “Home Renovation, Part II” »

Showering Without Hot Water

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I’ve been somewhat absent from blogging as we’re currently in the middle of a move with a simultaneous renovation.  I even have a post almost complete comparing what the house looked like before and what it looks like now.  However, we’re still in serious renovation and move in mode so the post is still in progress.

In fact, it’s so bad that we’re reverting back to our time traveling the globe!  When we turned on the gas to our house when we finally moved in last week, it smelled like the whole neighborhood was filling with gas!  The gas was turned off the last six weeks while the renovations were ongoing so we didn’t really notice.

So, now we’re stuck living in a house without gas.  It doesn’t affect our cooking too much because our kitchen is still gutted, but it does affect our hot water!  We’ve been without hot water for a few days already, and we have a few days to go.

That leaves a few options – most we used while traveling – cold showers, creative showers, or no showers at all!  Cold showers really aren’t fun so after we took a couple we knew it had to change.  It reminded us mostly of our time in Nepal when we were backpacking through the Himalayan foothills and hot water was hard to find.  No showers happened occasionally while traveling, but as we’re both working now it wasn’t a good option. Continue reading “Showering Without Hot Water” »

Redfin Dallas Review

Redfin Dallas Review

When we started our home search in Dallas, we were faced with the customary option of determining who’s going to make a lot of money off of our purchase. Seriously, 3% of our purchase price (THOUSANDS of dollars) to meet us at 10 houses and work the contract of a final purchase??  Realtors work hard, and I wouldn’t want their job because of the constant availability required, but that’s a lot money.

If only I could get a cut of that cash pile… enter Redfin!  My brother in law told us about Redfin because they were looking for a house in Denver and the whole “getting paid to a buy a house” part appealed to them as well.  After he mentioned it, we decided to give it a try and see if we could get a nice check from them after purchase.

What is Redfin?

They have it summed up pretty nicely on their website:

“Redfin Agents are full-service agents who get to know you over coffee and on home tours, with one big difference: We’re paid to be on your side.”

I don’t think we ever got a cup of coffee, but we did get a full service realtor. Redfin is different than traditional realtors and most realtors seriously dislike them as they’re a complete game changer in the real estate market. They’ve made buying a house a very transactional process and have become very efficient at it.

They’re not in every city, but they’re growing quickly and will be in every city before they’re through. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan. However, Redin may not be for everyone – here are some quick thoughts that should help you decide if you should use Redfin: Continue reading “Redfin Dallas Review” »

We bought a house!

Our new house

As I mentioned after we bought a new(er) car a while back, we’re now fully engrained back in the domesticated life where concerns aren’t where you’ll rest your head for the night, but instead how bad traffic will be on the way to work.  Now the real test, could we stay within the 2X income for buying a house?

The 2x income rule basically says when you buy a house, your total loan shouldn’t be more than two times your gross annual salary. It’s not necessarily based on the price of the house because you can subtract the down payment.

That being said, we managed to stay within the 2x income rule!

We were at a high risk of going over it as we we’re finalizing which city we’d move to. After we got back from traveling and I started working, I got a promotion and part of the deal was I had to move to either Houston, Dallas, or Austin. We quickly ruled out Houston as we don’t have many friends there and it’s farther from our families in Oklahoma. That left Austin and Dallas. Continue reading “We bought a house!” »