One of my favorite shows is Sex and the City. Those women lived glamorous lives I could only dream about. And, Carrie, a writer, was living my dream life as a famous writer in Manhattan. One of the storylines that stick out is when she and Aiden are breaking up and she has to buy the apartment they were going to live in together. One day, independent and financially savvy Miranda quickly works out that Carrie’s shoe addiction has cost $40,000! While it’s important to note that you don’t have to give up every service or “non-essential” to be financially healthy, at some point, there are trade-offs you need to consider. Paying off our home is a big goal for my husband and I – working towards it, gives us peace of mind – and we continue to make great strides to accomplish it in a fraction of the time it takes to pay off a conventional mortgage. Here’s how we’re doing it, what are some things you might trade for your big goals?
Keeping our car for a long time
One of the biggest expenses besides a house is a car. Duh! That’s not a hard conclusion to come to. BUT while a car may be a necessity, it isn’t set in stone that we have to get a new one every five years (or however long it takes to pay off your car loan).
And did you know that if you live in Georgia there’s a crazy law that ad valorem (what you pay when you register your vehicle in GA for the first time) is collected all at once rather than portioned out year after year? So, for example, when I registered my USED car in 2015 I paid something like $1300. Yikes. So, I’ll definitely be keeping my car for another 5 years or so.
I’m religious about oil changes and regular maintenance to keep my car I peak performance. But I never take it to the dealership for these things unless it is under a maintenance plan that is included. I prefer to see the trustworthy mechanic my husband and I have built a relationship with over the years.
This is not an easy trade off to make. My hubby, Glen, so deserves a newer car for all he’s done and sacrificed for us (and his daughter) but we’re holding strong to pay off our mortgage. Yes, I know it is hard when all your neighbors get the shiny new vehicles. But imagine not to have to pay four figures month after month for the roof over your head? How good would that feel? As Clark Howard recommends, keep your car for 10 years. I mean, why pay for something that is only going to depreciate? Instead pay towards something that will APPRECIATE.
Being smart with credit cards
Debt is the thief of paying off your home. Luckily, neither my husband nor I were burdened with student loans. But I know many who are. If you don’t have student loans consider yourself lucky and give your parents a hug. If you had parents like we did that taught us to use credit wisely, go give them an extra hug! Credit cards aren’t a bad thing when managed wisely. We charge everything on cards but make sure to pay it off each month.
We have two cards we divvy expenses. One is the Discover Card that gives us a cash back bonus. We use it all for Amazon rewards. I can’t tell you the last time I had to “pay” for something on Amazon. The other is a travel rewards credit card. We have not yet redeemed our airline points, but hope to use them this year for a much needed vacation.
I don’t get my nails done
So many of my girlfriends make it a point to visit the nail salon once a week. Well every couple weeks for the new gel / powder nails. They look beautiful! But the best part is they don’t have to do their nails every 5 days like I do. I know, first world problems. But in a world where we constantly compare ourselves to others, it is hard not to covet my girlfriends’ perfectly manicured nails. But at $15 – $20 per week or $35 – $40 for the gel / powder kind that adds up quickly. So this is one luxury I’m okay skipping on in favor of more important financial goals.
Ditching the out of office lunches
Brown bagging your lunch is so NOT sexy. Not to mention it requires planning and work to pack that lunch each day. But believe me when I tell you it is much easier to part with $10 each day than $100 for a fancy dinner. So if you make it a habit to eat out, if you aren’t adding up how much you spend each month, start now. You’d be amazed how easy it is to shell out $100 or even $200.
We broke up with our lawn service provider
When I say “we” I mean my husband. He is so good with all the work demands to never take it easy and let someone else mow our lawn. Yes, the heat can be unbearable, but he will mow the lawn after a long day of work to save us from spending necessarily for expensive lawn service. It’s worth your time to invest in a lawnmower rather than a lawn care service.
I am my own maid
I’m the world’s worst cleaner. Really. Even Glen says so. Cleaning, like working out, is something you do when you have time, and I don’t seem to have time to tidy up unless we are having guests Then it is an all hands on deck, tedious project to get the house clean. But we’ve committed to the fact that we won’t hire cleaners until the house is paid off.
Said “goodbye” to cable
Do you still have cable? How much are you paying? We cut out cable back in 2012 and have not regretted it.
We have Netflix and Prime and have never wondered what we were going to watch. Even better, Netflix is included with our monthly wireless carrier at no charge!
We eat in a lot
Find that hard to believe? After all, I write about food. But I would venture to guess I dine out far less than most people. One or two dinners a week. How many times a week do most people eat out? We eat dinner at home most nights. I also do a lot of meal prep in the beginning of the week. I cook hard boiled eggs on Sundays for the work week ahead. Not only is it inexpensive but it is hearty, filling, and an easy way to grab and go for breakfast. By preparing meals during the week, we have plenty leftover for lunches during the week.
We track our expenses
Most people are visual, and if you can see how much money you are spending on different things each month, it may help you change those spending habits sooner vs. later. What if you saw that you spend on average $300 per month on lunch and morning coffee? I’d suggest using an app like Mint, which can track all expenditures and help you budget.