The first step on our journey was deciding together what we wanted our life to look like.

Here are the things that we wanted:

  • To be generous
  • Our lives to be as simple as possible
  • To be a part of a strong community with friends that we could grow with
  • Time and space to create things
  • Flexibility with our jobs. I wanted to be able to have a job where I could work from home if we started a family.

Jason had always wanted to accomplish these goals by paying off our house. This idea sounded great but impossible to me. I did not know anyone who was free of school loans or credit cards let alone people who had paid off their house. Then I heard an episode of This American Life about the financial guru Dave Ramsey and once I started listening to Dave’s show and heard people who had paid off all of their debt including their house I started to get on board with this huge goal to pursue our dream of a simpler life.


Now that we knew what we were working towards we had to figure out a plan to make our dreams a reality. We needed to get a clear picture of what was going on with our finances, so we started a budget.

  • We wrote our income at the top of a piece of paper.
  • Then we made a list of all of our essential expenses. The first budget was a bit of a guessing game but we looked back at our previous month’s spending so that we had actual numbers to work with. It took a few months to become really accurate. Here are some great budgeting forms if you are looking for a starting point.
  • Then we subtracted all of our expenses from our income and saw how much money we had left over.
  • We tracked all of our expenses on and made sure that we were working within our budget.
  • We then had a clear picture of how much extra money we would have to put towards the house after our necessities were paid for.


You can probably tell that our dreams are pretty modest and so was our dream house.

Choosing a house had to get us closer to our dream of simplifying our life. This was how we knew that we had found our dream house:

  • Everything that was really important to us was within walking distance to our house. The grocery store, most of our friends, our church Liberti, restaurants, coffee shops and galleries are all less than a mile away. Jason is also able to bike to work. We did not want to spend any more of our lives than we had to commuting in cars.
  • It had character. There were old original hardwoods, plaster walls, an old built in armoire, and a little patio out back.
  • It also had the ugliest kitchen I had ever seen and some bizarre things happening in the bathroom. We had seen so many houses with cheap renovations that were so sad looking. We knew that no matter what if we were going to find a home in our price range we were going to have to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms ourselves and both of us would much rather rip out old and ugly fixtures and cabinets than pay twice to undo someone’s cheap rehab.
  • It had a garage! In the city this is almost unheard of and we have dreams of making it into a beautiful studio where we could spend time making things.

We were able to get the first time homebuyers tax credit and bought right after the housing crash and ended up getting a great deal on our house. At this price we knew that we would be able to pay for it on one of our salaries if one of us lost our job. It also meant that as long as we had two incomes we could pay a huge chunk every month on the house.


Living on only necessities and not going on vacation or going out to eat was painful. I felt like we were working so hard and all of your money was going to a huge seemingly insurmountable goal. It was easy to start to feel defeated. So we needed a finish line. We needed to know that there was going to be an end to all of this sacrificial living. So we plugged the amount of our extra payment into this mortgage calculator which gave us a date when our house would be paid for. AND HOLY COW all of that simple living was going to be worth it. We were going to be able to pay off our house 10 times faster than the normal mortgage holder. Every time I wanted to buy something I would ask myself if it was worth pushing our house payoff date back. And when we made more money with raises or freelance jobs we plugged that number into the calculator to see how much closer it would bring the date of paying off our house. Every penny counted, money that we made and money that we spent was now tied to a goal so it made us view our purchases differently, it made it easier to say no. Accomplishing our goal together became more important and exciting than buying things.

NEXT POST ON OUR JOURNEY Television is Overrated

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  1. Lana

    my mom is obsessed with dave ramsey. I have like 3 copies of his money map from her. this is all encouraging! thank you for sharing!

  2. melody

    thank you for sharing this! It is something that has motivated me to finally get serious about paying off our house early and living debt free! I always thought it was impossible, but you have shown me how to get started and I really appreciate you posting this! I have an extra income and we still don’t seem to save enough. I have been too caught up and living a materialistic life, it isnt worth it. I would like for our house to paid off and for me to be able to work my passion my personal business from home, in case we do start a family. My husband and I are sitting down tonight to figure this out! thank you again

  3. Ashley

    Thanks for this post, Haley. I am a nerd about finances, and it is great to hear success stories for people in our age bracket/lifestyle. I have been on a similar path with my student loans . Two things about the process surprised me: 1) How empowering it feels to know that you have control over your budget (even if it feels like it is strangling your social life), and 2) how much easier it is to say no to all the little things ($4 coffees, perpetual happy hours, housewares. etc) when you have a specific target in mind.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Pam

    Hi, Haley! Not sure if you remember meeting me in Alabama this summer but I hope you do! I am enjoying your blog so far and looking forward to more. Dave Ramsey is great. Another good book I to recommend is The Millionaire Next Door. Even if accumulating enormous amounts of money isn’t a prime objective, it is an inspiring book about not being controlled by our high-consumption/materialistic society.

    Here’s to “living like no one else today so we can live like no one else later”!!

    1. Haley Post author

      Pam thank you so much for the recommendation. I follow Thomas Stanley, the author of The Millionaire Next Door, but I haven’t read the book! I’m going to have to get it from the library 😉

  5. Ammi

    My husband Andrew and I are just finishing up Finincial Peace University- next week is our last! Thanks for posting and looking fwd to reading more!

    1. Haley Post author

      Ammi that is awesome! Keep me posted on your progress and things that you are learning. I’m cheering for you guys!


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