I can’t stress the importance of goal-setting and planning when you’re getting out of Debt.
Mr. Picky Pincher and I are natural planners, so we mapped out our financial independence journey from day one. While our path has meandered at times, our crucial guiding goals remain the same. I’m happy to report that, while we’ve achieved a few items on our so-called “Financial Bucket List,” we’re still working towards bigger and better goals!
Here are the bucket list items we’ve checked off so far. Woohoo!
Achieved Bucket List Items
Pay Off Credit Card Debt
Mr. Picky Pincher and I managed to pay off $14,000 in credit card debt within a year of committing to a frugal lifestyle.
This was no small feat! We hit our financial low in the summer of 2015 after we got married. After all of our bills, there was hardly any money to put away for our future plans.
We ended up slashing our food expenses with smart grocery strategies, switching up our car situation, moving to a cheaper apartment, cutting utility costs, switching cell phone carriers, and becoming loyal library patrons. During this time, I also switched to a higher-paying job and Mr. Picky Pincher got a raise, which enabled us to speed up our debt repayment significantly. Woo!
Once we cut our expenses and increased our income, we used Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method to pay off our smallest debts first. I can’t tell you how good it felt to pay off all of that debt and have one less thing hanging over our heads.
The big upside? Our credit scores and debt-to-income ratios improved, which helped us score a better deal on a house.
Buy A House
After much crying, binge ice cream-eating, and threats to live in a tent in the woods, we bought a house! This has been a dream of ours since we got married, but I had no idea that it would take over a year of marriage to accomplish it!
Since we were able to pay off our credit card debt and eliminate other monthly bills, we had the funds for a down payment on a house. Although we had the money, the housing market was an absolute wreck for buyers. The competitive environment meant people over-bid for houses and would undercut you at every turn. Not fun!
After months of searching and going through four real estate agents (true story), a couple finally accepted our offer. I remember getting the email and tackle-hugging Mr. Picky Pincher! It took about a month to close on the house, but we got the keys on September 8.
Because we chose to eradicate our consumer debt before buying a house, we had plenty of funds to renovate. Was it necessary? Not really, but we wanted to have a decent place to live and a space that made us happy. It was worth spending the money to us. And just in case something happened, we made sure to have an Emergency Fund.
Create an Emergency Fund
I always snorted at the advice that you should have three months’ worth of expenses in your emergency savings. That sounded like a stupid amount of money that just wasn’t attainable for a person who lived paycheck-to-paycheck. There was a time in my life when saving $20 a month was the best I could do. And that was pushing it!
Fast forward to today, and Mr. Picky Pincher and I have established a good emergency fund. We saved like crazy while we were house hunting. We planned to keep a portion of our savings went towards the house, and another portion of our savings will remain in the account as an emergency fund.
If either of us were to lose our job or get sick, we would have peace of mind thanks to our financial cushion. While we couldn’t survive long term off our emergency fund, it would sustain us long enough to come up with a game plan. It also means that we have cash on hand and won’t have to resort to putting emergency expenses on a credit card. Score!
Since we’ve paid off our credit card debt, obtained a house, and created an emergency fund, it’s on to our next goals on thefinancial bucket list!
Current Bucket List Items
Pay Off Student Loans
I can’t stress enough that we wouldn’t be able to do this without our emergency savings. This is because, during our student loan payoff, we won’t be contributing to savings at all. This is because we don’t want to divert funds away from student loans, which are our debt priority. Plus, we already have a beefy emergency savings, so our money would work better for us by eliminating our student loan debt and interest payments, anyway.
Our current plan is to pay off both mine and Mr. Picky Pincher’s student loan debts within 18 months, starting in December 2016. We’ll continue our frugal lifestyle while finding new ways to cut expenses, like setting up a food forest in our back yard. Any extra funds will continue to go towards the student loans.
Start a Family
We believe we’ll be able to better provide for our family after conquering our student loans. Since most of our debt will be eliminated at this point, it’s the perfect time for us to start a family. Once our student loans are paid off, we’ll beef up our savings account again to plan for child-related expenses, like hospital bills, maternity leave, etc.
We’re waiting to start a family until our loans are paid off because:
- We’ll have significantly less expenses at this point, which means one of us could quit our jobs to stay at home, if needed/wanted.
- We don’t want our kids to think debt is normal. I always thought debt was something everybody had their entire lives; I don’t want my kids to think this is a viable option.
- If we get sick our lose our jobs, we won’t have to worry about paying bills in addition to supporting our kids.
Pay Off Our Mortgage
This is the last step in the getting-out-of-debt leg of our journey!
After our student loans are paid off and we build up our savings, we’ll start overpaying on our mortgage like a madman. According to Mr. Picky Pincher’s calculations, we should be able to pay the house off by 2020 – 2021. We want to have a completely paid-off home before we start investing and building our net worth. At some point we may move and turn our first house into a rent home for passive income, but I’ll let the future Picky Pinchers decide on that one.
Start Seriously Investing
At this point we will have very, very few bills and no debt. And that means it’s prime time for us to start building our net worth through investing and saving. I still need to do more research on investing, so we don’t have an investment plan that’s set in stone yet. But the plan is to save enough cash for a safe 4% withdrawal rate during early retirement.
Achieve FI and Officially Retire
It’s the big one, folks!
Once we have enough savings and investments to live off of, we can finally retire from our 9-to-5 day jobs. Does that mean we’ll never work again? Of course not.
For us, “retirement” means having enough money to work when you want. If I want to work as a volunteer at an animal shelter full-time, I finally have the freedom to do so. If Mr. Picky Pincher wants to give drum lessons in our garage, he has the freedom to do that. Retirement means doing whatever the hell you want and not worrying about the financial consequences.
So, while we’ll be living off of our investments and savings, we will still be periodically contributing through what I call “fun work” as we want. Of course, we’ll also have stints of happy non-employment so we can spend time with our family and travel.
Ahhh, that’s the life.
The Bottom Line
The path to financial independence is different for everyone. Our plan is just one path. But one thing is for sure—you need to come up with a short term and long term game plan for achieving financial independence. I double dog dare you to create your financial bucket list today and share in the comments!
We want to know: What’s on your financial bucket list?
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