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- Kingdom Privilege December 18, 2014
- Can’t Be Successful by Just Showing Up December 18, 2014
- We Got a Home Debt Free- Here’s How December 11, 2014
- Why We Don’t Care About Our Credit Score December 8, 2014
- Hood Rich- How Living in the Hood Saved Our Finances December 4, 2014
We moved into a beautiful, ridiculously spacious bungalow in a Chicago south side community in 2010. But the journey to a debt free home started much earlier.
When I tell the story, I get mixed reactions. Some people believe, some don’t. Some people want a formulaic, step by step playbook on how they can also get a home with no mortgage and no debt. I can’t point people to a book or a government program. Honestly, our breakthrough came through prayer and reading about money principles in the Bible. The process started with changing our thoughts about money and debt and ended with us receiving a home without a note.
Instead of a step by step, detailed account of everything that happened for us to get the house (because everyone’s journey will be different), I’d like to outline the changes that occurred in our thought process to bring us to this wonderful place.
Before we did anything, we came to a common ground in what we believed about money. This was crucial. Since my husband and I are Christians, we both agreed that we would use the Bible and the money principles contained there to guide our financial decisions. This means that whatever the Bible said about business partnership, debt, co-signing for debt, relatives and money, labor and fair wages, charitable giving and even capital gains would be the basis of our financial decision making.
We changed our thinking about money in so many ways and did the following:
1) We realized that we weren’t entitled to anything- One of the reasons for our financial strain was that there was somewhat a sense of entitlement when it came to spending money. We felt we deserved a nice meal out, a luxury car or designer clothes. Just because we were nice people, didn’t entitle us to these things. Nice things are for people who have their finances in order. For a long time, that wasn’t us. Ouch.
2) Took a few steps back to go many steps forward- At one point in our marriage, we were literally on the verge of financially bleeding out. I got an office space for a business that I really could have run from home (along with the related credit card debt), high rent in a swanky suburb and a nice new shiny car note on a Lexus SUV. Since we had recently begun using the Bible as our new life manual, it was time to make a tough decision- close up shop and go home to mama. It was hard to humble ourselves and step backwards in life to live with relatives. I am so glad we did it.
3) Had a plan for freed up money- While we were schmoozing off mom, we actually made a plan for the money that was released from our home and the office space lease. We decided to make a concerted, deliberate effort to pay off debt completely and quickly. We knew that having debt would impair our ability to save, invest and build wealth. For this reason, we decided not take for granted our special “no rent” situation and tackle our consumer debt head on.
4) Resolutely decided against debt for a home- I had a lot of time to listen to Dave Ramsey so I knew one of his favorite mantras was “I don’t borrow money for anything.” Those words, coupled with a verse in Romans 8:13 that admonished us to owe no one anything, continually echoed in my mind. I thought, if Dave could get through business and life without debt, so could we. So why not at least try. That’s exactly what we did.
After about a year and a half of diligently paying down debt and saving leftover money, it happened. We received a phone call and it was with the great news that a house was available to us with no debt! The year before, we were at a crossroads: tired of doing our part, but being so far away from the prospect of home ownership. We almost went back on our debt free resolution and started the mortgage pre-approval process! We were weary and wanted to make our home happen quicker than we thought it would take. Thankfully, our thoughts were invaded with the nagging feeling that this wasn’t the right way for us. In the middle of that process, my husband and I recommitted to our debt free plan and bailed out of the loan application process. Thank, God! If we had gone forward, we would not be in a position receive our debt free home.
There’s no magic, no miracles here. I don’t have a program to sell you or a pill you can take to get your own debt free home. Plainly put: this was a process of changing our minds and eventually behavior due to believing in the possibility of a debt free home.
Could you ever believe that you could get a home with no mortgage? Why or why not?
Yes, that’s right! We don’t care about building our FICO score. It’s true.
We are that rare breed of American that cares nothing about FICO or any of its related credit measuring buddies. While I don’t consider myself strictly a personal finance blogger, per se, I would say that this way of thinking generally goes against a lot of financial advice. Even if you are in the more extreme personal finance camp, this total disregard for a credit score is really extreme!
Gasps of horror and looks of shock and bewilderment ripple across the personal finance blogosphere. How could you not care about your credit? How will you get a home? What if you need a small business loan? However could you live with poor credit? All common, but good, questions.
The answer is simple. You’ve heard Dave Ramsey say it a few times: FICO is not a measure of wealth, but simply how well you acquire and pay off debt. Since we plan not to use credit ever again for anything- not even a house or car, then our credit score really can’t help us. Though we don’t plan to trash our credit score, we don’t have intentional plans to build it up either. But we do have very intentional plans to save and pay cash for things as needed. If cash can’t cover it, we don’t get it. That includes houses, cars, college, weddings- the whole shebang!
After having played around with credit, both personally and business-wise, I can say that I am cured from acute credit-itis and would not be sad at all if we never built up a good credit score again. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don’t care about our credit score.
We live in “Da ‘Hood.” Corner stores, kids out late at night, gunshots, alley mechanics and all the glory of what the ‘hood life entails. Yes, this is where our home is located. A home on the next block is selling for $2,500. That’s a car note for some people. We are eyeing a property for $1,500 not too far away. Our property taxes are less than $1,000 each year. Oh yeah, the city of Chicago is giving away lots for $1 if you live where we live. Life is, well, not that pricey here. So consequently we are “Hood Rich.” Not because we are broke and have 3 or more 50″ flatscreens in our home (we actually have not one flat screen TV in the house), but because we can afford to save money due to the low cost of living in our particular neighborhood. Though Chicago can be expensive, we’ve been able to offset that cost by living in Englewood.
We don’t have a mortgage and we aren’t inclined to drive fancy cars for practical reasons. A Bentley might not be the best ride to bring in, not quite yet anyway. My husband and I decided that we would be smart about money (and safety) and grow roots here because financially, it just makes sense.
There are a few minor inconveniences: having to drive a little further for some shopping stores, not utilizing the neighborhood schools (home school) and things like gang activity. However, being the rogue Christian that I am, I have seen prayer truly work to improve the neighborhood: crime is down, the first cafe opened in the community EVER and Whole Foods, yes, Whole Foods is coming into our neighborhood. THAT could ONLY be prayer!
We came here to set up shop, but we have made it a point to be wise and put our trust God’s protection. He’s been so faithful. Plus, we stopped gang banging, selling drugs and slangin’ illegal firearms, so we are less of a target now, j/k! Just kidding, meaning we never did those things. But seriously, because we are not involved in those activities, the chances of us being victims of violent crime is so much smaller. So we rest pretty peacefully at night and amble about the community at ease during the day. Surprisingly, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of families just like us here: working hard and doing the best they can in life.
I run my business from home and have what I’d like to think as a great work life balance. I see my kids all day and still am able to contribute to the household financially. It’s truly ideal, but couldn’t be done if we started our married life in a $400,000 home in the ‘burbs. That may be our end later on in life, but I’m not going to stress myself or my family out getting there. We are still and will always be committed to a debt free lifestyle. It’s ok to start small and humble so you can finish strong and with integrity. That’s our goal.
Would you live in “the ‘hood” to save money on life?
Using a combination of strategies like early saving, starting college early and exhausting all financial aid options like work studies, a debt free college education is achievable.
Find out more here:
I paid $150 worth of parking and speeding camera tickets today. Earlier this year I got a couple more $100 red light violations (courtesy of the new red light cameras) and both myself and my husband got speeding warnings earlier this year as well.
Let me just say, Chicago is a great place to live, really. But more and more, it’s become really hard to stay afloat here in the city limits. With the schools and crime in the news daily, no wonder residents have felt the sting of urban living to the utmost for many years. On the flip side, there is phenomenal access to opportunity- a thriving financial district, a beautiful arts scene, exciting night life & dining, plenty of platforms to jump start an entertainment or political career and the list goes on. This access comes with a price, however.
The conversation continues- Why is Chicago taxing its citizens with fines, fees and burdens that make living costs so high. Furthermore, many point out that these fines tend to disproportionately affect the poor. Welp, I can agree, high taxes, rents, fines etc. can make it hard for someone barely getting by.
We made the decision long ago that we would not be taxed, fined or run out of our city because of financial woes. It’s a place of defeat no one should have to tolerate. While it would be nice if ordinances changed to lessen the financial impact for Chicagoans, it just isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Until the laws change, we are basically self-insuring. Yep, that means we will have to take matters into our own hands and save money for little emergencies like towing and red light tickets. I agree it shouldn’t have to be this way, but if the city doesn’t have our best interest in mind, we are going to have to do the unthinkable- have an emergency savings fund. Yes! Actually forgo eating out at times and spending every dime that comes in and put aside money for emergencies. It sounds strange, but so far it has meant the difference between survival and disaster for our clan.
It wasn’t always this way for us, believe me. There were times we were one street cleaning ticket away from the brink of destruction! But as the years have gone by, we finally came to the conclusion that if the city won’t care for us, we might actually have to care for ourselves.
Dave Ramsey, one of America’s favorite financial guru’s, suggests starting out with at least a $1,000 emergency fund. Once your debt is paid down that should increase to 3-6 months of expenses.
If you live in Chicago, here are a few doosies you should always be prepared to cover (have your emergency fund in place):
1) Rising property taxes- even in the “least desirable” areas, keep a stash of cash in case your bill goes up next year. This bill is due twice a year, so save your money monthly to avoid penalties and interest on late payments.
2) Utilities- gas bills can be up to $2,000 a year! Especially if you live in an older home without updated energy saving doors and windows. The budget plan can space this cost out with monthly payments and usually no extra administrative cost or interest.
3) Car expenses- This is a HUGE one. I once got a $200 ticket for not having a city sticker! Make sure all your stickers (plates and city) are up to date. Pay close attention to tow zones, restricted parking areas (like the ones that convert for rush hour and street cleaning.) Pay any and all parking, speeding or red light tickets right away. If they add up, you will soon get a boot. Also, be aware of pot holes, if you hit one, you could get a flat. The city will reimburse you for the cost to fix it, but it can take up to 6 months! Ouch. Let’s not leave out gas. Illinois pays some of the nation’s highest prices for gas. I’ve pulled up to the pump after people who’ve put as little as $2.00 in their tank! It gets real here, folks.
4) Property citations- Grass not cut? Fence torn up? Garbage lingering in the alley? You could get cited by the city.
5) Owing the city- Having any outstanding bill whether it’s a water bill (these get massive for multi-units), child support or other infractions, you become ineligible for things that can actually put you ahead in Chicago. If you want to contract with the city, obtain a business license, serve on a nonprofit board or take advantage of the $1 lot give-aways, you have to be in right standing with the city, period.
6) Property damage: due to vandalism and aging- If you live in a high crime area, you might be familiar with the the theft of copper from air conditioning units. I know several people this has happened to (including us) that caused permanent damage to their unit. In fact we’ve not had A/C since 2012! I’ve heard of other stories where people lost electrical service due to vandalism. Besides that, Chicago is an old city with old structures. Old buildings just get old, so make plans to cover repairs for them. Another items to sock away money for monthly.
I am sure this is not a comprehensive list, but really a starting point to get you thinking seriously about protecting your income and preserving your sanity here in the “Chi.”
Can you think of any thing else your emergency fund might be helpful for to help ease the high cost of living in Chicago?
This week, my husband and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage. This is major for me, as I was, very honestly, concerned about our prospects of making it. Not because of my husband, but really more of me. As somewhat of a “laid back” type-A personality (if there is such a thing,) I thought I’d scare my wonderful husband away after a while. Well, I am so happy to report that he’s is still here and willing to keep going
Our marriage has not been without trials, but I can say for the most part it’s been wonderful having such a gracious, endearing soul mate by my side throughout the past few years. What’s even more wonderful is that this man has not only been my husband, but also a supportive partner in many of our life goals, especially the financial ones. In 10 years of marriage, he’s totally bought into the vision of being debt free and building wealth, kingdom style. He’s faithfully gone to work each day to provide steady income and benefits for our family while I tried my hand at starting and running my technology consulting company. Yes, this man has been awesome and exemplifies covenant financial partnership at its best!
Before I get verbose and this post rambles on, I just want to make the point that marriage can be weathered when there is an end goal in mind. Our vision was to encourage others to pursue their dreams, build wealth and advance the kingdom of God by way of financial freedom. We had to decide very early on that we’d definitely have to live what we would preach. I believe that is what kept the “marriage glue” effective throughout all these years. Our goals and our vision wouldn’t let us throw in the towel so easily!
After 10 years of marriage I am proud to say that we’ve been able to totally pay off our bills and begin saving and building wealth. It’s been a tough journey at times, but it’s been worth it to see the faces of our peers light up when they realized what we’ve accomplished. We look just like them- two eyes, a nose, two hands, etc.- totally human! Yet, the only differences between us are the decisions we’ve made and the effort we’ve put behind them. I am also proud to say that we’ve met a number of couples who’ve been inspired by us and have decided to take the leap together- to pay off debt, to build wealth and to advance the kingdom of God one small decision at a time. For this I am grateful, making this 10 year anniversary celebration that much sweeter.
If you’ve not yet sat down with your spouse to cast the vision of what your future together looks like along with the legacy you hope to leave for the next generations, I would encourage you to do so today. It could mean the difference between a marriage that thrives successfully and one that does not. In the tough times, the vision will speak, guide, protect, and encourage. Make the choice to weather-proof your marriage today, because the storms will come, it’s up to you to be ready for them.
Proverbs 29:8- Where there is no vision, the people perish