It’s funny the path that life leads you down. So many forks in the road and you are always making choices, whether you know it or not.

After Troy and I got married in 2002 we thought the next “thing” to do was to buy a house. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a down payment, or that we were two individuals looking at 2,500-3,000 square feet homes. They gave us a loan that we could afford on our two incomes, and we moved in.

About 6 years ago, and not even two years after buying our house, I got pregnant (it was next on the list). I always thought I would continue to work. I come from a long line of driven, independent working mothers. I feel strength in my genes from these women, each and every one of them are wonderful. But soon after getting pregnant I knew I wanted to stay home. I had only been in the workforce a few years and Troy and I were clearly chasing after the Jonses.

There was no way we could stay in the house on one income, so we put it on the market immediately. This was when the market was just starting to really tank. We had barely any equity and the house took over 18 months to sell. During that time, and the 100 showings we learned a lot.

#1 You gotta have the most cut throat, “kill it and drag it home” realtor that you can find. You don’t want to be friends with your realtor, you want them to work their butt off to sell your home.

#2 Your house can’t have any flaws in a bad market, the carpet, the paint, the landscaping all has to be prefect.

#3 Hug each other a lot. There were so many tears through this time. It bonded Troy and I together, but at times we were bound together in misery.

Once we finally found a cut throat realtor, he had two offers on the table in 30 days. The closing was a mess and we didn’t know about short sales then (not that we would have gone that route honestly). We had to cut a check out of our pockets at closing for $27,000 in order to get out of the house (closing costs realtor fees. negative equity), that was over 10% of the selling price of the house. We had to borrow money from family to do it.

I just looked and our old house is for sale currently, it’s listed for $57K less than we sold it for. Ouch! Here it is if you want to buy it.

All the time we had the house on the market Troy was commuting 60 minutes each way to work. He hated it, he doesn’t really like to drive. I promised him over and over that when the house sold we would find the closest apartment to his work that took dogs and we would move there.

When we sold the house we did just that. We moved from a 4 bedroom 2,400 square feet house to a 2 bedroom 980 square feet 3rd floor apartment. For several months we literally laid around and licked our wounds. We were pretty down and out and we had a 7 month old that barely slept for 3 hours at a stretch who hated breast feeding. It was one of the hardest times in our marriage.

A few months rolled around and we found out through the grapevine that our family was getting upset that we weren’t making an effort to pay them back. My feelings were pretty hurt that they hadn’t come to us first about it and I googled “Get Debt Free.”

The first link was to Dave Ramsey’s homepage. That was one of the best days in our marriage. I was totally consumed with his message and I was shocked that he is totally anti-debt. So much so that you can’t even buy his products with a credit card, only a debit card. I thought, wow, he is living what he teaches.

He resonated with me. One of the things he says often on his radio show is “The borrower is slave to the lender”. I was really feeling that way. Another one he says is when you borrow money from family “Turkey dinner doesn’t taste the same when you are sitting across from your lender”. Oh that was resonating with me. I vowed that day to never ever borrow money from family every again.

That night I showed Troy his site and we drove across town to a library that had his books in stock and checked them all out. We read Total Money Makeover that weekend out loud to each other. Dave is Christian and his books have that slant. We don’t go to church, but it didn’t matter, the message hit home with us. We went through Financial Peace University online (I don’t think they have it online anymore). We really learned about how to progress in our marriage with our money. We have a budget meeting every two weeks where we give every single dollar a purpose. We pre fund every purchase and if we forget to bring something to the table during the budget meeting, then it waits until the next pay period.

The first goal was to pay off all our debt, and cut up our credit cards. We kept our REI one for rental car booking and some travel expenses (going against the plan…just being honest here), but cut up the rest. We compiled all our debt, put them in order: credit cards, student loans, car, family loan and started attacking it like crazy. It took 12 months and 10 days to pay it all off, $35,583 in debt. We sold our pricey Suburu Outback and bought a cheep and old Volkswagen Passat that is still running pretty well.  I even did triathlons that year but we lived on BEANS and RICE for most of it. I had the grocery budget down to $485 a month.

After the debt was gone, we cranked out saving up a 6 month emergency fund (baby step 3 in Dave lingo), starting contributing 15% take home pay to retirement (baby step 4), maxed the IRAs, got Annies college fund cranking (baby step 5), and started saving for a new car. We had a sour taste in our mouth about ever owning a house again. Troy and I even discussed buying a house on a 100% down plan when we were 45 or 50.

We were in the apartment for 5 years. 5 years!! And we liked it for a lot of those years. Sure, we haven’t had anybody over for dinner in 5 years…we don’t have a kitchen table, and when my parents visit they sleep in Annies pink bed and she sleeps on the floor in our room. But we almost liked being “weird”. We were living an alternative life and we were giving the middle finger to “keeping up with the Jonses”. We were finally doing what was right for us.

It is the sole reason that I have been able to do triathlons at the level I have. Troy loves that we go to all these awesome places and we get to travel a lot, as do I (duh).

Well, we finally wore out our welcome in the apartment. The downstairs lady complained that we were making too much noise when really it was the pipes between us banging against the wall. The fridge died, the dishwahser died. The complex put “new” used ones in. The fridge froze all our new food and the dishwasher is still crap. The outlets in the kitchen aren’t working. The dog downstairs bit Troy. Our mail got delivered to the neighbor for a week and created a fiasco.

All of the sudden we were SICK of the apartment.

So we had “the talk”. We had the down payment, not the 100% down, but what Dave recommends to have down. But there was a slight problem. Annie is registered for Kindergarden and we are at the highest ranked public school in Colorado. The median home price in the schools boundaries is 600K. We are the only apartment complex that feeds to that school. I’ve already signed Annie up for Kindergarden enrichment and paid for it.

We went through Dave’s referral program to find a real estate agent. We talked with three and settled on one that we liked. He’s really nice which made me immedately skeptical, but we liked his track record and he clearly had the “Kill it and Drag it home” mentality. He instantly picked up on what was important to us (school boundaries) and he never once even brought up the elephant in the room (trying to buy a 200k house in a 600k neighborhood). He found two little tiny neighborhoods with townhomes. One neightborhood has 3 bedroom units, built in the early 80’s with an HOA fee of $160 a month (ouch). The other ones are HOA free, right next door to Annies school (and the middle school, and the high school) but the last one that sold was in 1998.

There was one on the market but it just came off an offer (cold feet…I’ll believe that after I see the inspection), wasn’t even listed on the public MLS sites. We went and looked at it, and Troy and I had major role reversal. Usually Troy is the one that is cautious. This time it was me. To be honest the place is exactly what we wanted. It’s small, the price is right, and it has a 1 car garage, a little back yard, and 3 bedrooms. I was pointing out every flaw, scrutinizing every detail, and Troy was like…let’s move in. I find more and more that I am strongly effected by emotional pain. I don’t tend to forget it and going through this process has definitely brought back memories of the pain we went through last time. Honestly, it’s why we aren’t having more children…too much emotional pain from labor and delivery. We all have our “issues”. Troy doesn’t carry this pain like I do, he bounces back and the memories fade for him. My memory tends to be tack sharp.

So, on Wednesday we hired Derek, Thursday we looked at the house, Thursday night we put in an offer, Friday they responded with a counter offer, and we accepted. WTF?

Now we do the inspection and start progressing along in the process. Honestly, it has really made me reflect on the last 6 years. We learned what we call the $35,000 lesson from the last house and this time around I feel so happy to be going through the process the correct way. It’s what some would call “a starter home” but honestly Troy and I don’t buy into that stuff and we would be happy for it to be our “ending home” as well. We just have no desire to have a big house, just enough for the three of us, and affordable enough to leave lots of funds for travel, racing, new bikes, and FUN!

So here’s to being home owners once again. I think it’s going to go much better this go around. We feel prepared to be responsible home owners and we know where we are headed as a family. Plus, I can throw a rock and hit: an all weather track that is barely used, Cherry Creek State Park, Annies school. And we only have to move our stuff 1 mile.

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  1. I also followed the David Ramsey total money makeover and was rid of my debt in a short time. It works. I kept my credit card but only use it for emergency purposes, but not having debt is a huge relief to me.

    Congrats on the new house, and best of luck.

  2. You and Troy sound like Dave and I in the way we live, kinda, sorta. Dave and I are struggling right now about our too big house, is the school Makenzie is going to the right one, etc, etc. You are an inspiration, Dave and I do a lot right, but we have some room for improvement. It’s weird how it all changes when you have a kid and everyone’s future to think about….


    You two are killing it! My fellow kool-aid drinkers:)

    I NEVER would have bought my house the way I did if I had known Dave first. Once I started the program I learned. So you paid a little stupid tax; so did I, but we learned from it and will never go there again!

    This is Great stuff Sonja! I hope all the people that read your blog will really take a look at Dave’s mojo. Living Debt free and on CASH creates a whole new feeling of security in life. Great job and I hope the inspection is perfect and you’re home owners again! (errr on a 15yr note, of course :)

  4. Congrats on the new house! It sounds perfect to be right by the school and so close to those other cool places! I love being close to my kid’s school so we can ride bikes or walk. I love your attitude about your house too. We have an old house that’s not really small, but small compaired to the houses people build these days that are just ridiculous! I’d much rather have a smaller/older home and be able to travel! Of course we can’t do that either right now because of too much credit card dept. Maybe I’ll have to get those books you mentioned.

  5. Yahooo!!! The story of your first house and debt-ness is scary to me, because student loans are on the brink. I need to get out of debt, seriously. I started using which is encouraging me pay down my credit cards in highest-interest-rate-first mode, and I’ve chopped up two already. I can’t even imagine having a kid right now in the financial state I am in, let alone paying a mortgage and maintaining a house. Money is one of those things that really does create this weird aura of stress and anxiety, even though you can say over and over again that “money doesn’t matter”- it really does.

    Anyway, KUDOS to you three, and good luck with the closing and move. When will you be moving?

  6. nice recap! so good to read of real people and their stories, lessons and figuring out how to live life. good luck with the new house. totally appreciate the approach to spending money…our front yard is the least landscaped in the hood but we go to kona for a week in october, australia every other year and other cool spots to race or just have fun! good luck

  7. I was wondering why you’ve been so quiet lately. I too tend to carry around “emotional scars” (for lack of a better term) for a long time. Good luck with the rest of the process and be sure to post pictures once you’ve settled in.

  8. good stuff here Sonja!

    It’s fun to see what happens to people when they set up their life for success.

    nice work and thanks for sharing!

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