Monday, December 26, 2011

2011: The Year in Review

Since today is kind of a quiet day, I thought I would take a little trip down memory lane and see how things went for us over the past year.  Here's the round up:
  • We sold our house at a good price.  The market was on the downward slide at the beginning of the year but since we had bought so long ago, we were still able to sell for more than what was owed on it and pocket some equity.
  • With the proceeds from our home sale we were able to finally pay off all of our debts. Yeah!
  • We spent the last year basically homeless (by choice) traveling which had been one of our goals for ages.  We always thought that if we wanted to travel we would have to be millionaires but learned that without a huge house payment and other bills/debts that go along with owning a home we could actually have the money to travel. What a light bulb moment!
  • We traveled around for the past year and so many great things happened while on the road that I was in a state of near constant amazement.  We visited Atlanta and the SIL who we were staying with needed some help with her grand kids (basically taking them to pre school every day) so we ended up staying there for three months with free room and board and car and all kinds of other nice extras.  We stopped by Las Vegas so hubby could do the World Series of Poker tournament and found that house prices were super low so we immediately made an offer to buy a house there, determining that it didn't matter where we lived in the world but that having a really low house payment would go a long way towards letting us continue to travel.  We spent a couple of months in Seattle enjoying the nice summer weather, then we spent nearly a month in the Philippines visiting friends and relatives and I got to hop over to Japan for a week to visit friends I hadn't seen in ages (all expenses paid...I love serendipity!).  We came back to Seattle after our foray into Asia and found that our offer on the house in Las Vegas had fallen though so we packed up our stuff which had been in storage in Seattle and carted it down to Las Vegas since we knew that eventually we would be moving there.  We made six more offers on homes in Las Vegas and all fell through (FYI--short sales are a horrible way to buy a house quickly and when you are buying the lowest priced homes in the area, the competition with cash buyers who are looking for rental property investments is fierce!).  We stayed with a cousin in Las Vegas for a couple of months while we got our bearings then decided to rent another cousin's condo for a couple months before looking to buy a house (and it's a good thing we did--we had made offers to buy a couple of condos but after living in one for a couple of months we have definitely decided to buy a house!).
  • I haven't worked for an entire year (a first since I was 16!) and we have found that we can both live pretty well on the hubby's retirement income!  Prior to this we had always assumed that it took two fairly large incomes to live happily but that isn't true.  With no debt and watching our spending we are actually living much better than we had in previous years!
  • We've taken frugality to new heights.  With our year of living out of our backpacks, we found that we really don't need too much stuff to actually survive--laptops, cell phones, and a few changes of clothes and that's all we need!  Previous to this we thought we needed closets full of clothes and huge purchases of Costco food "just in case".  Now we buy only what we need for the immediate future, only what we will wear in the immediate future, and only what we will eat within a few days; this works out really well and saves us a ton of money.
  • Because we have such a limited income, we scrutinize every single purchase no matter how small.  First, we try not to buy things that we don't absolutely need (mostly because at the beginning of the year we sold nearly everything we owned via garage sales and Craigslist and found that everything that we had paid top dollar for had a resale value of literally pennies on the dollar--a sobering reminder of the REAL price of the things we buy).  Also, since we have downsized our living space considerably (another thing we learned from traveling is that we can live quite comfortably in about 500 square feet!) we don't have the need to buy stuff just to fill up our living space--this also saves a lot of money.  Finally, and again due to our limited income, shopping is no longer a hobby.  If we don't have a burning need for something--and the cold, hard cash to purchase it--we simple don't go shopping.  I haven't seen a mall in months!
  • Finally, we have learned to look at things that people assume you "have to have" in a new light.  Since we hadn't really watched much TV over the past year, we didn't really miss cable, so when it came time to decide on TV service for our condo, we bought a $20 antenna from Walmart and now can watch TV for free over the air.  We have always owned cars--sometimes up to six for two drivers!--but now we have one car for the both of us and with neither of us working, there isn't a need for more than one car since all of our driving trips can be easily coordinated (before with both of us working, having two cars was basically a necessity).  Fortunately we have both aged past the "ego" part of owning new, shiny, "cool" cars and have one paid-for family van that we will probably drive until it literally dies (alas it has no "image" to speak of at all).
Overall, our entire year has centered around our new relationship to money.  Just a few years ago we were living paycheck to paycheck and deeply in debt and actually thought that was how we were supposed to be living because all 'normal' people lived that way.  Then we ran across the Dave Ramsey show on TV, caught the "debt free" bug, continued to watch Dave EVERY SINGLE DAY until his messages about money were burned into our memory, eventually got out of debt by shedding stuff we didn't need (cars, house, material goods), put our earnings toward paying off debt and living cash-only (which saved us a lot in spending even if the initial transition was semi-torturous), revelled in the freedom that came with literally not having a single debt, followed our dreams as far as our cash would take us (not super far but far enough from the daily grind that we had a wonderful year of travel), and have now landed on our feet in a new city, looking ahead to new goals for the coming year.  Whew!  What a lot of change we have had over the past year!


  1. It's been fun following you this past year. Very exciting too! So do tell why condo living is not the greatest and why you "definitely decided to buy a house." As we plan to relocate and rent the first year, we're looking at apartments VS houses and we could perhaps benefit from your perspective. I haven't lived in an apartment in 23 years and forgot what it's like.

  2. Hi Lorraine, I hadn't lived in an apartment since a very brief stint in college. Since we have been staying in the cousin's condos we have found that when in the upstairs condo, the people downstairs would sit on their deck downstairs and smoke and the smoke would come in our place when the windows were open. Now that we are in the downstairs condo, the people upstairs sound like they play roller hockey in their living room each evening--they are really loud! So basically we have decided on a house because we like our privacy and don't like to be annoyed by the neighbors!