Our debt-free story is far from conventional (like most things in our lives :). We didn't simply save all of our pennies and pay off each debt one by one. Though not the typical path, it got us to our destination nonetheless, and we hope to inspire others to think outside the box when eliminating debt. Before I delve in to how we are 100% debt-free and own our humble little home outright, I need to talk about how we got into debt in the first place.
Even though Brian and I were brought up in very different households, we have always been about equal with spending habits and generally "ok" with managing money. Not great by any means, but not terrible. We both paid for our own cars and expenses in high school. We both worked through college. We had a decent understanding and respect for a dollar from a young age.
Brian and I met my freshman year of college. He received a full ride to college via scholarships and grants (in retrospect, that was huge!) for both athletic and academic achievements as well as lack of financial means. I was able to pay for some of my school through grants, summer jobs, and a little help from my parents, but the majority of my schooling was paid with loans.
We dated on and off for about four years and then got engaged and subsequently married in 2011. Fortunately, we didn't incur any debt from our simple wedding (thanks to my gracious parents), but we did start our marriage with $20,000 worth of (my) student loans.
After that, it was kind of a snowball effect (and not in a good way). We both bought new cars, so we added on another $20,000 worth of debt. Then, it was a house. Honestly, we really didn't think long-term about buying a house; it just seemed like the next logical step and what other people did. It probably didn't help that Brian and I LOVE to work on houses as a hobby and we had maxed out the DIY projects in our apartment.
We started house hunting in the middle of August, looked at three houses, and were under contract on the Brooklyn Street house in September. We fell in love with the potential, the neighborhood, and the location - I could walk to work! After closing, we excitedly dove head first into house projects, rarely coming up for air for the next two years. We touched nearly every surface in that little house and loved it. You can read more about those projects here, if you'd like.
It was a very exciting time. In the same year, we got married, bought a house, changed jobs, and got a dog. Once the construction dust had settled and the sparkle of newness had worn off, there was a shift. We started thinking about the future - our careers, our house, our goals. Did we really want to have a family in our 800 square foot house in the middle of downtown? Were we on the right career paths since we have this passion for renovating? Amidst the doubt and uncertainty, life carried on and we puttered through the next few years.
Then, one dreary February morning in 2013, we got a call from Brian's mom: his grandmother had passed away. She was an interesting mixture of southern sweetness and spry wit that always kept you guessing. My fondest memory of her was the year we took her to look at Christmas lights. When we asked her if she was having a good time, she replied from the backseat of the car, "no, this is stupid." Oh, Granny. :)
With Granny's passing came the decision on what to do with her house (later dubbed the Myrtle House). Even though Brian's grandmother had not been able to live in it for the past six years, she LOVED that house. Sadly, due to negligence, the house had fallen in major disrepair. If sold, there was really only value in the land (which was not much either). Since the home had been in the family for so long, I don't think anyone wanted to see it torn down. After some discussion between us and Brian's family, we decided to try and restore the house. We had been itching for another project, and this seemed like the right fit. Oh, we had no idea what we were getting into. That may be a blessing in disguise because had we known the work ahead, I don't think we would have ever started!