Mrs Financially Independent

There were a lot of great suggestions and ideas for topics but one question that was asked over and over was for financial tips/advice/how to’s. Let me say, first and foremost, I am no expert. I have fallen down and stayed down for quite some time… over and over again. But I always get back up.  It may sound cliché, but I truly think that is key. Every time you make a money mistake, get in debt or spend too much on that fabulous pair of shoes or handbag, you HAVE to get back up, brush yourself off and remember to get back on the right track. This blog post talks about how I managed to move to Nashville right after college, buy a house a year later, and survive almost 20 years without becoming homeless when I was underpaid and over-spending.  Now, let me back up… For those who may not know, allow me to share some back story. I share this because I want those of you who may not know about my life to understand that I am not a rich kid. I didn’t grow up in a privileged life with trust funds, maids and cars given to me. My family didn’t work that way and wouldn’t, even if we could have afforded it. My parents both thought it was important to know the value of a dollar, so when I approached them at the ripe age of 7 or 8 with all my reasons for why I needed an allowance “like everyone else got” they agreed – if I was willing to work. No, they were not just going to give me $5 a week for being their kid. I cleaned the bathroom(Yes, even toilets), vacuumed the house, dusted and did whatever else was asked of me for that money each week (hello, child labor laws! I was so abused! haha!). I am beyond grateful for that upbringing, now. My parents got an earful of my complaints as a kid, though!
I moved to Nashville at the wise age of 22. Just before moving, I had been out of college for a year, living with my parents, working with physically and mentally disabled children through a private agency. My client was a 7th grader who was in a mainstreamed classroom and desperately needed special ed. Due to his living situation (he was not living with his biological parents) his guardians insisted he be treated as his friends. So basically, my job was…I attended 7th grade all over again – and really, for the first time, because I was homeschooled from K-11th grade. I talked with his teacher each morning, got his assignments for the day, then did 1 on 1 learning in the school’s library. Now, I adore kids, but teaching is NOT what I was born to do in this lifetime, so I was miserable.  
After one particularly rough day, I came home and took to heart something my mom’s best friend had said to me years prior; that I should be a traveling nanny. I didn’t know what that looked like, exactly but at the time, Brad and Angelina were married at the time and in the process of adopting a whole baseball team, so I dreamed about being “Brangelina’s” nanny.  Since I wasn’t sure how to go about contacting their “people”, I did the next best thing (I say that as a joke. I’d never have wanted the job of being Brad and Angelina’s nanny)  –  I dug out all my cd’s, opened the little booklets and wrote down the name of every music label, artist management company and if there was a contact number or email, I wrote that down, too. Fast forward about 6 weeks, and I’d been to Nashville, interviewed with a contemporary Christian music group, been hired, went home and turned in a 2 week notice, packed a bag, left my family and a long-term boyfriend behind and moved to Nashville. 
I was thrilled, and was working in the city I’d always wanted to live in. Since things happened so quickly, I lived with the family I nannied for, for 3 months while I looked for an apartment. I soon found a place, moved in with a roommate who was also a nanny, and felt SUPER grown up. 
It certainly helped me solidify that yes, indeed I was born to live in Music City when on my third day in Nashville, I took the baby and met the group I was working for at Calypso Café, a little hole in the wall place that has the BEST salads, for dinner. While walking to the bathroom I ran into Renee Zellweger, who came out as I walked in, and whom I quickly realized was eating dinner with Kenny Chesney. They were the only other people in the café with all of us, and I assumed this was normal and that I’d run into famous people everyday (It truly does happen frequently but I’m STILL waiting on Carrie Underwood to invite me over to her house for cocktails – or to organize, hint hint!). No one believed me when I said they were eating together, but about 2 weeks later, it was all over PEOPLE magazine that they had secretly gotten married. (You heard it here, first, folks! Ha!)
Anyway, I will never forget when I moved to Nashville and was looking at apartments, my dad gave me quite possibly the best advice ever, when he said “Baby, I only want you to rent something no more than a year. Then you need to invest if you think you’re happy and going to stay here. You need to buy something and build some credit”. At the time I thought “How am I ever going to afford a house?!” But without any planning, within a year of moving to Nashville I was under contract for a home that was in the process of being built in a sweet neighborhood just outside of town. I was able to do this because President George W Bush had signed a bill that basically meant first time home buyers could put 0% down. Let me tell you right now, that is the ONLY way I bought a house at 23 years old!! It was less than 10 minutes from where I worked, and I felt like SUCH a grown up! I was in heaven. I just needed to figure out how to furnish it. I immediately found roommates, which helped with the mortgage (I was on a tour bus 4-5 days a week but came home to an empty home and wanted some noise and friends…and also money to help cover that pesky mortgage thing). I was blessed that my grandparents, parents and family friends gave me all kinds of hand me down furniture, so I only had to purchase a minimal amount, and roommates knew they had to furnish their own rooms. It was a great situation for what would end up being almost 6 years of a carousel of strangers/roommates who ended up mostly becoming great friends that I still keep in touch with to this day!
Soon after moving here in 2005 I partnered with a couple of nanny agencies to find part time, nanny jobs when I wasn’t traveling.  I also signed up on an online nanny agency, and met a wonderful family (funny enough, they were the only family I met in person through that website and we are still close to this day!) who needed someone part time and could be flexible with days and times. They had a 6 week old baby and I started working for them regularly when I was not out of town. I ALSO had a part time job at Bath and Body Works in the mall. Suffice it to say I’ve always been a hard worker. I would generally work Monday through Wednesday 9-10 hour days (part nannying and partly at the mall) and then hop on the bus Wednesday (Or sometimes Thursday) night and be in a different city each day through Monday morning.  I’d get off the bus Monday morning and most of the time, go straight to my other nanny job all day, suitcase in the trunk.  I was a hustler – still am.  

Before you thing it was all glitz and glamour let me set the record straight… I absolutely LOVED bus life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!! It grew my desire to see the world even more than I already desired as a kid and I had the thrill of a lifetime visiting some of the greatest places in the world. I have been to all but 8 states in the USA, and have been all the way from British Columbia in western Canada, to Ontario in Eastern Canada, amongst other beautiful places. I met some amazing people, too! However, it was a lot of work, as well. I missed family vacations, weddings, friend’s birthdays, and other important events due to my job, and I woke up in the middle of the night with crying kids, soothed them back to sleep, had to go to bed earlier than everyone else due to getting up early with the kids, etc so it was not ALL easy. But, most of it was a blast! 
When I was in college, my dad encouraged me to get a credit card and told me to charge one tank of gas a month on it, and pay it off every time. It was my responsibility to pay and he never once paid my monthly bill for me. It was a wonderful lesson that money does not actually grow on trees. 
I had jobs all 4 years of college, and made money but it was minimum wage type stuff – nothing major.  I was also definitely NOT only charging one tank of gas a month! When I moved to Nashville, I wanted to live like my friends and the people I was around lived, and I had no business attempting to do that. I was gone all the time and when I had a random weekend off, or a friend asked to have girls night I was always ready with a “YES!” even when my bank account said “NO!” 
As a newcomer to the big city ways, what I was being paid seemed like SO much money because it was more than I made at my prior job in NC. What I failed to consider was: 1. In NC I lived at my parent’s house and besides personal things I chose to spend my money on, any money I made was saved/mine. I had zero expenses.2. This thing called a budget… Just because I was making a little bit more money, I also had rent (at first, and then a mortgage) to pay, utilities, cell phone bill and my mounting monthly credit card bill. 
And, that was just the first year I lived here!  Once I bought my house I had MANY more bills and expenses. I didn’t know how to budget.  In case you don’t either, let me share: In one column you list EXPENSES and in the other, you list INCOME. Your income should always be more than your expenses or else you will be in the hole (AKA; In debt). Expenses are literally every single thing you pay for every month. Electricity, Mortgage/Rent, Gas, Car payment but also going out to eat, movies, shopping, etc. My income never even came close to my expenses. 
I was not good at asking for more money with any job I ever had, or benefits, etc (I’m better now). I assumed people were always considering MY needs just like I tried to always consider their needs, and that is not always the case. Everyone has their own worries.  
Within a year of moving to Nashville I was making more money with a family I worked for part time than with any other job I had, but it still wasn’t enough to even cover my necessary expenses, like mortgage and utilities, much less extra “stupid spending”.  I wasn’t ready to quit my job at the mall (I loved that my discount at Bath and Body Works also carried over to Limited, Express, Structure {men’s clothes} and Victoria’s Secret) and there was no way I was leaving the bus and road life. It was what I’d always wanted to do!  I didn’t know how to fix the mess I’d created.  I continued living way beyond my means while making never enough and before I knew it, I had almost $10,000 in credit card debt. 
Yes, I am being honest. I don’t mind sharing this because one, it was years ago and two, I will never get to that place again. EVER. 
I began paying only the minimum amount due each month on the various credit cards I began accumulating (because it was really all I could afford to pay) and working almost around the clock. 
Now, let me stress, I was not going out to eat at expensive restaurants, nor was I shopping til I dropped, etc. I’ve never had that problem, because I am a very frugal person. I was traveling. I was going to California, Vegas, seeing Cirque De Soleil shows in Vegas and doing things I STILL do not regret at all.  I looked at it like “you may never again get a chance to see this show or visit this place” and truly all I’ve ever wanted to do in this life was travel. I couldn’t care less about fancy cars, big homes, designer clothes, etc. I just want to visit as many countries and continents as I possibly can in my lifetime. I was also charging a lot of my bills because I didn’t always have the money to pay them all. 
I was also, ALWAYS paying my 10% tithe to my church. I took that first 10 percent and never even thought twice about it. I knew that God would always take care of me, even if He taught me lessons at the same time. And He did. 
Slowly but surely, I changed my ways.  I lived like the broke person I was.  I quit going out to eat. I went to matinee movies on Tuesdays when I could get cheaper popcorn, instead of on Friday nights. I took every single nanny job offered to me. I literally never bought anything new. I saved every single penny. I also began charging more per hour when random “babysitting” type jobs were offered AND I asked the families I was working for “full time” for a raise. 
In 2013 I refinanced my house. Due to the low rates, and the fact that I’d owned for 7 years at that point, I was able to refinance at a much lower rate than I’d gotten when I bought the house. When all was said and done, I knocked 6 years off the life of the loan, had no out of pocket closing costs and continued paying what my previous mortgage bill was, which resulted in basically making an extra mortgage payment each year.  I also rented out my house, twice, and lived with the family I nannied for, and then, for a year, moved to Texas where my rent was a fraction of what I was making on my house so I was able to save even more. Every move (no pun intended) I made during those few years of “brokedom” was about getting hold of my finances. All these choices helped tremendously but it didn’t get me totally out of the hole. It seemed every time I thought “next month I will have leftover money to save!” a tire needed replacing, the hot water heater at my house went out, there was a service charge for some company who fixed something…it was always something. 
About 5 years ago I really buckled down. My house was rented out, I was recently engaged and was excited about planning a wedding. However, I knew a wedding was expensive. I sat my new (at that time) fiancé down and had a very honest conversation. Up until that point, I tried (as my parents raised me to do) to share in the expense of dating, and if he paid one time, I tried to pay the next time. Now, he almost always paid for dinner, but if we had ice cream, grabbed drinks, or did something other than dinner I tried to pull my weight. It was never 50/50 and that was ok but I was not ever a free loader. In fact, I paid for almost everything I ever did with my previous boyfriend but THAT is another (almost unbelievable) story for another time. I kindly and honestly shared the expenses that came with wedding planning and said I really needed us to slow down our constant spending OR I had to back out of paying for a while. We came to an agreement on how to proceed and we spent one Friday night painting his garage, and began taking turns cooking for each other (he cooked for me A LOT more than I did for him) and found cheaper ways to still have fun, date days. We went to the park and threw Frisbee (Well, he threw, I missed, threw it back but it always went WAYYYYYY south/east/west/north of where my fiancé was standing, oops! After grabbing it out of the creek 2 or 10 times, he said we could find something else to do😂), we drove the Natchez Trace, etc. 
Fast forward to almost 4 years of marriage, I paid for our wedding using money I’d saved up for years and we did not spend one cent over what was budgeted, AND we bought our first home together in October 2019!  I sold my first house that I bought all those years ago in June of 2020 after owning it for 14 years, used the profit to pay off everything, start a 401k, invested some, saved a lot and other than our mortgage we are now 100% totally debt free! 
A very long winded blog post later, I can summarize by saying if you have a lot of credit card debt, consider opening up a new card (I realize this sounds counter intuitive but hear me out) that offers 0% interest for at least a year, AND offers 0% interest for a year on balance transfers. Trust me, there are cards out there that do this because I did it!! Once you find a card offering those 2 things, take whatever card has your highest balance and transfer it to the card with 0% interest for a year. That gives you a year to get back on track. THEN, take whatever cards you have left and pay as much as you possibly can on one card at a time. For instance, say you have: Card A with $1,000 balance Card B with $900 balance Card C with $500 balance
Example: Open up a new card with 0% balance transfer and 0% interest for a year, and move Card A balance to new card. Then, take whatever money you have, whether its the minimum amount due or the full $900 balance and begin paying off card B (highest balance). Pay the minimum on card C. Then when card B is paid off, begin paying more on card C. When those are paid in full begin putting however much you paid each month on the first 2 cards on card A, which is now on a new card that is charging 0% interest. (This is Dave Ramsey in a nutshell)
After what will seem like a zillion years, the cards will all be paid off. BUT, during this time, cut up and cancel all but one credit card. Yes, you may take a slight hit on your credit but it’s worth it to not have the temptation of multiple cards. Believe me, the 10% you save by opening a specialty store card is NOT worth it. All that does is tempt you to go buy something you do not need. 
And, most importantly…


I mean it. Sit down and create a strict budget. Spend only what you absolutely have to, start cooking at home, get creative with date days and live simply. I swear life is SO much less stressful when you aren’t worrying about debt.
Same is true with cars. If you have a car payment, for heaven’s sakes don’t go trade in your car as soon as it is paid off. Drive the sucker until the wheels fall off. 
If you have kids, start saying no. I promise they will respect you SO much more when they have to work for whatever they want instead of you buying it.  I STILL remember the blue and pink banana seat bike my parents made me save up for and purchase myself when I noticed “everyone else” around me had the cool banana seat and I had…NOT a banana seat bike. My parents said if I was so set on wanting a bike I didn’t need, I could do extra chores, save my money and buy it myself. 30 years later I still picture it vividly.  My point is, start buying the things they’re begging you for and save it for their birthday or Christmas gift. Again, you’ll see their requests diminish greatly when they are forced to stop and think about what they REALLY want, and how it will be a gift instead of just a “here you go”.  Bonus? You won’t have spoiled brats for kids. You’re welcome very much. 
Once you have paid off your credit cards you will be amazed at how much more you have to put down on a new car when you NEED one. You may even be able to pay cash! How wonderful would that be!? You can go on vacations, maybe even fly! 
If I can help even one person by sharing about my struggles and my story, I am thrilled. Overcoming all my past debt is something I am SO proud of because I did it on my own. My parents didn’t bail me out. 
One last thought – before I buy ANYTHING, I ask myself this question: “If I walk away (from this store, this website, etc) will I miss this? Will I wish I’d bought it?” Most of the time, the answer is no. Most of the time I DO walk away. ALWAYS I annoy whomever is with me (You can ask my mom, sister and husband…They are always irritated by how I over analyze every purchase. I’ll have not eaten breakfast OR lunch and not buy something to eat in an airport because “if I wait until we get where we are going it will be half this price”. It is seriously ridiculous. But just because I have money NOW to buy whatever, I remember a time when I DID NOT have the money. I honestly hope that mentality never leaves me because it does help me not overspend. Like, ever 😂
More than anything, find happiness with what you have right now. For most of us, we already have more than we will ever need. There is always “more”, but there are few who are content with “now”.

XO ~

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