You’ve probably heard it many times before: “hard work and sacrifice.” If you want something bad enough, you’ll do both. Lance from Money Manifesto and his wife lived that cliché.
Before they married, they sat down and made a plan. “My girlfriend (at the time) and I sat down and figured out how much debt she had,” remembers Lance. “When we found out it would end up over $80,000 in student loans, it was overwhelming.”
But they were undaunted. In the fall of 2009 after Lance graduated, he started working at an accounting firm. He made good money — but didn’t waste a dime.
“I did my best to live frugally,” says Lance. “I lived with roommates for the first year after graduating. I spent very little money dining out and took my lunches to work most days. I saved my excess money, so I could help pay back the student loan debt when we would get married.”
He eventually moved to another state where the living expenses were cheaper. When his wife graduated from nursing school two years later, she followed him. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find a job. So, she sacrificed and so did he. She took a job an hour and a half away where Lance’s parents lived.
“My girlfriend stayed at my parents’ house when she worked her three twelve hour shifts back-to-back-to-back each week until I eventually ended up moving to the town a few months later, which left me commuting over an hour and a half each way.”
“I paid the rent while she put her earnings towards the student loan debt,” says Lance. “We lived very frugally, pretending we were still broke college students. We rarely ate out, we only had hand-me-down furniture, and we didn’t decorate any place we lived except with very inexpensive items.”
Their first Christmas together they found a “pretty pathetic fake tree” in the shed at the house they were renting. During that time, Lance says, “We each had $50 per paycheck that we used for our fun money, but that was, for the most part, the only money we spent on things we enjoyed.”
In late 2011, he and his wife (then girlfriend) bought a home. They could afford the 20 percent down payment because he saved so much money from his full-time job.
“We were paying $900 per month rent when a 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath 1,150-square-foot townhouse came up for sale less than three blocks from the beach,” says Lance. “The price tag? Only $79,000. I had more than enough to cover the 20 percent down payment and closing costs and our housing payment would be reduced to $500 per month.” He also knew he could easily rent that house out once they moved for $900 to $1,000 a month.
After a few months of searching, Lance eventually found a job in the new town so he could drop the hour and a half commute. With the extra time he now had on his hands, he started his personal finance blog with hopes of making some extra money.
When Lance and his girlfriend married, they didn’t spend foolishly. “My wife carefully planned out every detail,” says Lance. “We had our wedding in a park that only cost a small amount to rent, less than $200 if I remember right. We had our reception in a restaurant party room and my wife made our wedding cake by watching tutorials on YouTube.”
Paying off the debt
In March 2014, Lance and his wife finished paying off the $80,000 in student loans. They celebrated by having dinner out at a nice restaurant. But they didn’t change their financial ways. “As someone who read so much on personal finance and as a personal finance blogger, my wife and I wanted to be responsible and set ourselves up financially for our future,” says Lance.
They created an emergency fund and invested their money wisely. He says, “Another reason for the emergency fund and extra investments were because I knew I may want to try out full-time blogging one day. We used this money as a buffer, so I could jump into self-employment.”
In November 2015, Lance left his full-time job. His wife also became pregnant. This made working from home even more appealing. He could take care of his son rather than have him spend his young years in daycare. “I knew if I could grow my income enough, my wife could continue working a traditional job while I worked to improve our blog,” says Lance.
Now Lance works on Money Manifesto but also writes freelance for personal finance clients. “Some people call this a full-time blogger while others say I’m a blogger/freelancer,” says Lance. “The title doesn’t matter to me. I get to work the hours that make sense for me from my home office, so I can watch my son.”
After listening to Lance’s impressive story, I asked him for some advice for our readers. He happily responded:
1. The first thing people should do is either go back and figure out how much they spent each month and what they spent it on or start tracking their spending going forward. Don’t confuse this with a budget. Tracking your spending involves writing down what you’ve spent. You also need to track your earnings and your net worth which includes assets and debt.
2. The next suggestion is to go through your spending and see where you’re wasting money. Look for things you spend money on that you get little to no value out of and cut those items. And negotiate prices on your cable bill and get new quotes for auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc.
3. Finally, work toward paying off your consumer debt, starting with your high interest rate loans such as credit cards. It’s time to pay the piper and start knocking out the debt. Once the debt is paid off, you can start solidifying your financial future with an emergency fund and investing for retirement.
Sounds like “hard work and sacrifice.” But it’s obviously worth it.
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