Why We Paid Off Our House Early

Why We Paid Off Our House Early

Why We Paid Off Our House Early

A paid off house sounds magical, right? For most of us, it just seems like a pipe dream or maybe not even a dream at all because the thought of a paid-off home seems unimaginable. Maybe you must be a unicorn or have some special powers to pay off your mortgage early.

Most people just wish to have a paid-off home before they retire so they are able to retire, but what would life look like if you could have a paid off house today? What would having a paid-off home give you the ability to do?

Could you go on that dream vacation to Greece? Would you be able to afford some things you’ve always wanted? Or maybe you wish you could be able to be more generous with your money and your time? Having a paid-off home gives flexibility and financial freedom.

Financial freedom looks different to each person. To some, that means being able to pay for whatever you want without caring how much it costs. For others, it means being able to work fewer hours, play more and be more present.

For me, financial freedom means that I don’t owe anyone anything and I’m not stressed by finances. Financial freedom would allow me to be generous when I see a need. It would give me the ability to live my life how I want to, without money being a roadblock.

 

I crave financial freedom, and I’m sure you do too. We all long for security, the ability to live our lives without the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. Finances impact every area of our lives, and sadly, most of us are held back by them.

The decisions we make about money profoundly changes our lives. This is why my husband and I have been on a journey of getting rid of every ounce of debt, including our mortgage.  And believe it or not, we’re debt-free! We didn’t get to this goal by accident or luck. We didn’t win the lotto or inherited money.  

Honestly, we’ve never had brag-worthy incomes that would make this goal an easy feat.  What we have had going for us is a stellar financial defence. What I mean by financial defence is that we are really good at saving money.  

Financial offense is the money you earn.  It doesn’t matter how good your financial offense is if your financial defense is not on par.  Financial defense wins the game. Here are a few of my articles that go more in depth on saving money: Live Like a College Student, The Phrase I Use to Curb Overspending, and How to Save 40% on Groceries Without Coupons.

My husband and I have had a clear goal and we are determined to change our financial destiny. We don’t have one big secret to help you be financially successful. Finances don’t work that way. Every little financial decision has an effect. That’s why I can’t pinpoint just one thing that has helped us more than anything to reach our financial goals.

A Good Financial Plan:

A good financial plan is a culmination of millions of everyday choices. The small choice of making coffee at home instead of purchasing it at a coffee shop can make a huge impact on your ability to save. Over time that consistent coffee shop purchase adds up. Our choices change our financial future and that’s why we need to start paying attention and being intentional with those decisions.

Now in the financial world, most people would’ve recommended that we should’ve invested into the stock market more instead of paying off our house early.  Their reasoning is that the interest rate you pay on your home is typically quite a bit less than you’ll make on your investments.  Yes, this is true.  But, we still invested and we’ll be able to invest quite a bit more when we have no monthly mortgage payment going out.

Or the other common reason people don’t pay off their home early is for the tax deduction.  When you actually do the math, keeping a mortgage for the tax benefit doesn’t add up. You’re only getting deducted from the interest you are already paying on your home.  It’s not a tax credit. But we took a different route.  

We didn’t want to just follow what the mainstream financial world recommended us to do.  We wanted to pay attention to what God says about money and He is very clear that debt isn’t good at all.  In fact, in Proverbs 22:7 it says, “The borrower is slave to the lender.”  That means that when I owe money to anyone or to the bank, I’m giving up my freedom and handing it over to someone else.  

Christ has set us free, but when we live in debt (being enslaved to the lender), we aren’t experiencing the full freedom given to us.  And that’s why we wanted to become debt free.  Now that we have no mortgage, we have more available finances to invest and use in other areas. 

If you want to here some of the tips that helped us pay off our home at 31 years old, check this out.  I’d love to hear about your financial goals.  What are you doing to make your financial future a brighter one?

Collecting Dust: My Journey to Love and Use What I Own

Collecting Dust: My Journey to Love and Use What I Own

Collecting Dust: My Journey to Love and Use What I Own

I’ve always been one of those girls that held onto my fancy and higher-end items and would never use it. I remember being given some Burt’s Bees lotion, but I thought it was too expensive and special to be used only on special occasions. It just became a decoration on my nightstand. Then after a long while (it might have been years later), I opened the bottle and poured out the lotion into my hand. It was brown and watery and smelled funny. That too-fancy lotion ended up going bad because it was never used. At that point, something dawned on me. How often do I hold onto items and never use them because they are too nice to use?

That lotion experience was quite an eye opener for me. Too often I don’t wear that nice dress because it’s just too nice. I don’t use my wedding serving utinsils because they are too special. My china is in a box in storage where it hasn’t seen the light of day in years. How often do we not enjoy the special and sentimental things that we own? Honestly, I’m getting a little better in this area but I still need some work.

So how do we start to enjoy what we own instead of letting our stuff collect dust?

ONE

Scarcity Mindset

The more I contemplate my own tendency to not use the good stuff, I realize two key points. First, it shows a scarcity mindset. If you don’t know what a scarcity mindset is, it’s when you think and believe that there isn’t enough to go around. For example, phrases like, ‘I’ll never have enough money,’ ‘when will I ever be able to get this again,’ etc. Now back to the lotion example, I didn’t use it because I knew I wouldn’t spend the money to buy it again. It was special, so it was for display only. What a travesty. That displayed lotion ended up in the trash- that’s not too special.

I remember in college, one of my friends only ate on china. Yes, you heard me right. Real porcelain china, the kind your grandma passed down. I was in shock when I went to her home. She enjoyed her china plates and actually used them. I remember sitting down for a meal at her home and it felt so fancy and upscale. We don’t even use China for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and there she is using china everyday. When I look back at that experience, I want to be like my friend who actually used and enjoyed the fancy plates instead of storing them in a box in the attic.

TWO

 Don’t Wait for a Special Occasion

The second reason I think I’ve struggled with using my stuff up is feeling like it needs to be a special day or occasion to use it. Deep down, it really shows that I don’t think I’m good enough to use it right now. I’ve got to get over this. I need to wear the earrings that I got from my grandmother after she passed. She would want me to enjoy her things, and not just store them away because they are so valuable.

My daughter has nailed this!  She would get fancy dresses from her grandma every Christmas and Easter. Instead of only wearing her beautiful dresses just for the holidays or for church, she wears these fancy dresses to school or the library.  Her dresses get a lot of love and wear- which they should!  For her, wearing those dresses make her feel beautiful and special, so she wears them.

 

I’m ready to start using what I have and enjoying it right now. If I don’t use those nice items, they just become clutter. I want to honor those memories and the people who have given me lavish things. We aren’t meant to hoard, but to enjoy what we own. And I’m ready to start living that out!

Do you struggle with not enjoying and using what you own? What are some things you never use or wear because they are too special or valuable? Please comment below…

The Phrase I use to Curb Overspending

The Phrase I use to Curb Overspending

The Phrase I use to Curb Overspending

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Saving money is incredibly satisfying. Don’t we all love getting a great deal? I love when I’m able to get something I want or need for free or cheap, but often I run into those not-so-good deals. You know, when you’re going to the grocery store and the grapes are $2.98 lb or the recliner you’re eyeing is still full price. That’s when it’s tough. It’s hard to not give in and overspend.

Have you ever caught yourself saying or thinking: I deserve this? But I worked hard for this? Or I really want it? Most of us rationalize a pricey purchase with these types of phrases. The truth is, no amount of rationalizing will cover the fact of overspending. Dollars and cents add up. It’s simple math. If you overspend, there’s a literal price tag on that.

According to CNN, Americans aren’t living within their means.  More than half of U.S. citizens are living paycheck to paycheck or going into more and more debt each month.  Now this statistic probably isn’t a shocker to us.  It’s human nature to want more stuff, but it’s also our job to have some self-control.

If we don’t set up healthy limits and live within our means, overspending is inevitable. What I’ve found to be my own mantra to help me limit my spending and stay on track is this: ‘That’s not good enough.’ Yes, it’s super simple but incredibly effective.

So when I push my grocery cart with my kiddos in tote past the grapes that are $2.98 lb. and my kids are wanting them, I say, ‘that’s not good enough.’ I know that I won’t spend over $1.00 lb. for grapes, so I don’t purchase them. I know grapes are an inexpensive purchase in the grand scheme of things, but all the little purchases adds up quickly over time. So, don’t neglect the smaller and cheaper items.  

If you want to learn how to save 40% on groceries without clipping coupons, you’ll need to read my post here.  It’s even more important to have self-control on the bigger purchases. My husband and I had been eyeing a recliner for two years. Yep, two whole years.

 

We know the Costco system for marking down prices, and each time we went there we would check the price of a leather recliner. And that recliner stayed at $399.99 for two years. The truth is, we never saw the price change and we never ended up buying it. I don’t look back and wish we would’ve bit the bullet and just gave in on the purchase. We both felt like it wasn’t meant to be.  If you want to quit overspending at Costco, check out this post.

We have to not give into everything we want or desire. By practicing this kind of self-control we are not only saving money, but we become more content with what we have. Plus, as a parent, I want my children to see that I don’t get everything I want all of the time. I want my children to be content with what they have and not ask for a new toy every time we walk into a store. As a parent, I must demonstrate the behavior I want my children to have before I can expect them to have it.

Now, I don’t want you to take this too far and get to the point where you never buy anything full-price or feel guilty when you splurge. If you have the financial ability to do that, go right ahead. But, no matter what income level you’re at, practicing self-control is important. Create your own mantra or steal ‘that’s not good enough’ from me.

Start being ok with not buying something today. It’s ok to sleep on a decision before making a purchase, even a small one. Buyers remorse is real. You don’t want to get home and realize that you were emotionally-charged when you purchased and now you regret it.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Curb Overspending:

Here are a few questions beyond, ‘that’s not good enough’ that will help you see if you really need to purchase something and will help curb overspending. So the next time you’re in Target and you find a cute sundress that you’re eying ask yourself:

  • Do I want this or do I really need this?
  • Do I have something similar to this already?
  • How often will I actually use this?
  • Will this make my life easier or better?
  • What is one reason why I shouldn’t buy this?

After you answer all of those questions, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should buy it or not. If you start second-guessing the purchase, don’t buy it.  These questions will help you not have a closet full of clothing with the tags still on it or whatever your purchases may be.  

I’ve even heard of people who will shop, but won’t buy anything that day. If they wake up and still are thinking about what they wanted to buy, they’ll go back to the store and purchase it. Now that’s the opposite of an impulse purchase.

 So instead of just buying what you want, take a little bit of time to ask yourself some deeper questions. Practice some self-control. It will save you some serious cash and clutter. 

4 Parenting Tips from Brene Brown that Changed How I Parent

4 Parenting Tips from Brene Brown that Changed How I Parent

4 Parenting Tips from Brene Brown that Changed How I Parent

I love reading parenting books. They give me ideas and inspiration to help me be a better mother and raise my kiddos well. Each parenting book I read gives me more tools in my parenting toolbelt.  I just listened to probably my favorite parenting audiobook ever. Brene Brown’s audiobook “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion & Connection” is a true gem. In this post, you’ll see four parenting tips from Brene Brown that will challenge and encourage you to level-up in your own parenting.

This audiobook doesn’t give you phrases to say to your kids or a step-by-step program. This book is different. There isn’t extra fluff added here and there.  Every word is noteworthy.  “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion & Connection” challenged me to become a better example for my kids and equipped me with new parenting tool for my toolbelt.

4 Parenting Tips from Brene Brown’s Book:

ONE

Shame versus Guilt:

Most of us know what shame and guilt are, yet I didn’t fully understand the difference when it comes to parenting. And I sure didn’t realize the different outcomes of shame versus guilt on children as they grow up.

Brene is a shame researcher. She distinguishes shame versus guilt in this way. Shame says I am bad and guilt says I made a bad choice. Do you see the difference? Shame-based parenting puts the negative behavior as who they are, while guilt-based parenting focuses on the behavior.

Shame-based parenting is what was the norm in past generations. It’s slowly becoming less popular as new parenting methods are becoming more prevalent.

What blew me away was the long-term effects of shame-based parenting. Those children who are raised with shame are more likely to be depressed, drop out of school, be involved in risky sexual behaviors, drugs, and alcohol. While children who were parented using guilt are more likely to graduate and be involved in less risky behaviors. This is a big deal and the biggest factor between the shame-driven versus guilt-driven kids is the way they are parented.

Obviously, Brene Brown recommends that we should parent using guilt, not shame.  She states, “I’m just going to say it: I’m pro-guilt. Guilt is good. Guilt helps us stay on track because it’s about our behavior. It occurs when we compare something we’ve done – or failed to do – with our personal values.”  This is what we want our children to experience- guilt, not shame.

TWO

Developmental Milestones to Look for:

 

Brene Brown talked about a study that was done in the 1960’s where they put 12-18 month children with their mothers in front of a mirror. They put rouge on the mother’s nose and watched what the children did. The children would look in the mirror and try to wipe off the rouge off of their own nose, not their mothers.

 

From this study, they determined that young children cannot distinguish themselves from their caregivers (attachment theory). But when children hit around the age of two, they are able to see themselves as separate from their parents. That’s why when you ask your two year old to come they run the other way.

 

Brene’s husband is a pediatrician and he wants to hear that the two year old is being a challenge. If a two year old isn’t being defiant and doing the opposite of what you ask them to do, he’d be concerned about their developmental stage.  What we see as frustrating behaviors are often times developmental milestones that should be celebrated.  

 

Since I have a two year old, this really resonated with me. It changed my perspective and gave me a better understanding about his behavior. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give our children limits.  Brene says our job as parents are creating limits and boundaries and sticking to them.  My big takeaway was understanding why my child’s behavior is really a developmental milestone.

 

THREE

The Power of Play

Obviously playing together as a family is important, but I’ve never heard research that backed this up. A violence researcher studied case after case of people who are incarcerated because of violent behavior. He was trying to find a common factor from their childhood, and his conclusion was that there was a lack of play as children.

This research was really interesting to me and encouraged me to play more with my kids. Brene Brown wanted to put this into action in her own family, so she had a family meeting where each person talked about what activities they enjoy so much that they lose track of time and laugh to the point of tears. They were able to determine what they love as a family and they plan activities and vacations around those activities. I love this idea.

FOUR

Practicing Gratitude as a Family Tradition:

We live in an age where entitlement is a huge concern for our children.  Brene says the cure for entitlement is practicing gratitude. Her family makes this a practice when they eat dinner.  They say a prayer before the meal and then each family member says something they are grateful for that day.

She says that they have had deeper dinner conversations because of this technique.  Sometimes her kids reveal something that they are dealing with like ‘I’m thankful for my grandparents.’ Her child who said this had a friend who was dealing with a grandparent that just passed.  I’ve loved this idea and have started incorporating this gratitude practice into our dinner routine.

  

Brene Brown‘s audiobook “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion & Connection” is full of so many wonderful parenting ideas.  This isn’t a book you’ll just want to skim- every word is powerful! I listened to this audiobook three times, it’s that good! Plus, it’s only two hours long.  

I recommend listening to this audiobook with your spouse. It will give you valuable information and great talking points to help you both approach your parenting together. So if you’re looking for a refresher in your parenting or a good dose of encouragement, I’d highly recommend Brene’s book.  

Feeling Judged as a Parent?

Feeling Judged as a Parent?

Feeling Judged as a Parent?

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I’m calling all you perfect parents out there, those with Ph.D.’s and parenting expert titles. If you have children that listen the first time you ask, who eat all the food on their plate, and who never have a tantrum, please do share your insights with us.

But for the rest of us out there, parenting can be a struggle of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. And once you think you’ve got your parenting methods down, your child changes. And let’s not forget about adding more children into the mix with different temperaments and personalities. Our kids are constantly changing, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we can struggle parenting a moving target.

I’m not a parenting expert by any means, but I do try to be the best parent I can be. I think most parents would admit that they are trying to raise their kids to the best of their abilities. (I’m not referring to parents who are neglecting and abusing their children.) Yet, why do so many parents (including myself) feel like the way we are raising our kids isn’t good enough?  Most of us are feeling judged as a parent.

Parenting is challenging as is, and then the way we parent is often judged by othersThere are so many labels out there making parenting even tougher waters to navigate. Am I too much of a helicopter mom? Or am I a tiger mom? Maybe I’m just a #badmom and the list goes on and on. Labeling just divides us and creates parenting shame.  

Brene Brown says, “Ironically, parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children.” Isn’t that so true!  My mother-in-law always says parenting isn’t for wimps, and I can wholeheartedly agree with her.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling opposition in the way I raise my own kids. As parents, we have so many decisions to make for our children. Should we vaccinate? Circumcise or not? Breastfeed or formula feed? Sleep-train or not? Spank? Do time outs? What about sleepovers? Give screen-time or not? Eat organic food? Y’all this list is endless.

As parents we make decisions on behalf of our children all of the time- it’s our job. And that makes this parenting gig tricky. Often times our parenting decisions are different than the decisions our family and friends would choose. It’s easy to feel personally attacked when we see others parenting different than us, especially if they comment on the subject.

I’m not immune to those unpleasant comments that stop you in your tracks and make you feel like you’re a #badmom. I’ve had people confront me on hard issues like vaccinating my kids, circumcision, and so much more. Yes, I didn’t enjoy those conversations. At times, I second guessed our decisions that we were so adamant about.

But most of those conversations came from people who care about my kids. I doubt that they wanted to make me feel like a #badmom, they said what they said because they care. That being said, it’s hard to not take those comments personally. It feels like you’re being told you’re doing a bad job at parenting, and no one wants to hear that.

I don’t want to neglect the fact that sometimes we do need to change our parenting approach. If someone says something about how you parent that you don’t agree with, try not to take offense. There may be validity to what is being said.  If that’s the case, change what you’re doing.

We all should be teachable in every area of our lives. So, if someone has a helpful comment, use it. Our kids change so quickly, so we need to be open to changing our tactics. But if their comments aren’t valid or line up with what you and your spouse believe is best for your child, keep doing what you are doing and try not to get offended by it.

So How Do We Stop Feeling Judged as a Parent?

The sad reality is that I’m guilty of fueling this judgment fire myself. I used to have such strong convictions about sleep training to the point that I thought every parent should sleep-train. Hands down, the book “Babywise” helped me navigate the early years of my children’s lives. I thrived on the routine of the plan. Instead of feeling completely clueless when it came to parenting and what my infant needed, I felt confident in what to do. If you haven’t guessed, I love routines and schedules. Knowing when my kids napped gave me the freedom to plan my day.

Needless to say, my love of sleep training got out of hand. Because the Babywise method helped me so much, I thought I should start preaching about it as if it were gospel. I earnestly wanted others to reap the benefits I experienced, yet I’m pretty sure it didn’t come across that way. Looking back in my own life, I’m guessing that most people who push their philosophy or parenting techniques on others is doing it out of helpfulness, even if it doesn’t come across like it.

I began to notice that I started to look down on parents who didn’t have their kids on a schedule. My mind couldn’t fathom that kind of existence. Honestly, just thinking about the lack of routine stresses me out. Then I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t in the majority. Most parents don’t set eight timers on their phone to remind them when their child should be awake and go to bed. Many parents would probably cringe at the rigidness in sleep training. Nonetheless, I would tell every expectant mom all about how amazing Babywise was as I touted its praise.

Then my thinking shifted. I started having real conversations with moms who didn’t parent like me, and guess what? They are doing a fabulous job and they are trying their best. Just because the sleep-scheduling method I used worked well for me and my children, doesn’t mean that every child birthed into this world should be practicing the Babywise method.

It was a reality check for me. My narrow view shouldn’t be the only way, and could you imagine every parent parenting the same way? Goodness, our society would be so boring and predictable! I’ve started to recognize and correct myself when I start going down judgment ally. It’s a nasty journey that harms others and myself.

 

I love this quote by Brene Brown about parenting judgment. She says, “If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.” Brene’s conclusion to the whole mom-shaming debacle is that we cast judgments on others because we aren’t comfortable or confident in the way we are parenting.

If you are feeling judged by the way you parent or feeling like you’re not good enough for the job, I want you to cling onto this. The truth in the matter is that God chose you, yes YOU to be the parent of your children. There is a reason your children are yours. God has equipped you to make those decisions for your children. Instead of playing the comparison game with all the other parents you see, lean into the fact that you are your child’s parent for a reason.

I truly believe that we need to stop viewing other parenting techniques and methods as the enemy that needs to be battled or debated to death. Instead of feeling like we have to have impenetrable armor and our parenting methods as our weapons, what if we became vulnerable and walked alongside other parents? What if we talked openly about our struggles without fear of feeling like a failing parent? Could you imagine having that kind of support even from parents who parent differently than you?

 

There is no Holy Grail parenting book or method that has all of the answers. Let’s stop viewing the way we parent as a competition. All parents struggle. We have good moments, and we have ones that we aren’t proud of. The thing is, we all are trying to raise our kids well, yet we see so many different ways to parent. It’s so easy to judge others who parent differently than we do and often times we feel like we are on the receiving end of judgment from other moms.  Check out my post all about mommy judgment here

So let’s quit labeling our parenting and feeling guilty for being a bad parent. What if instead of viewing other parenting ideas as competition, we gained insight from other perspectives? We need to focus on raising little humans that will be a positive influence on the world. We are the example our children see. So let’s stop the name-calling, judgments, and rude comments.  Let’s come alongside other parents as we are raising the next generation.

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