We Paid Cash for our Home!

How we Paid Cash for our Home! ~ Our Cozy Den

As we are moving into another stage of life (and moving, quite literally, to another home), it’s got me thinking about how we got here and the choices we made that led to this place.

One of the biggest things that surprise people when they hear our story is to find out we paid cash for our home. It seems like an impossibility in today’s world: people feel that they are paid too little, they owe too much, and they can never get ahead with their savings.

That may be true in some cases, but I really believe that in many cases it comes down to priority and sacrifice. We gave up many things to obtain a certain level of financial security. Now, I’m not saying that you have to do all of these things to pay cash for a house, but this is just an outline of some of the things that we did/do.

In the years leading up to the purchase: SAVE.

We increased our spending more and more each year, until it got to the point where we were living off of only 15% of our income, tithing 10%, and socking a whopping 75% in savings.

Getting our expenses low was key to this step. We did this by:

  1. Doing spending freezes at least twice a year, for 30-90 days. {Click here for a tutorial on how to do this!} 
  2. We did eating-out freezes. While we were digging out of debt, we didn’t eat at a restaurant for an entire year.
  3. Cut back on gift-giving. Trust me, you’re not going to get exiled from your family if you don’t give expensive gifts at Christmas time. We cut our gift list down to immediate family only (people that we live with or used to live with, like parents/siblings), and we set a budget of $10/person. {Click here to read more about frugal gift giving!} 
  4. Cut back on bills by cutting cable, changing your cell phone plans, making your home more energy efficient, and learning how to cook more cost-effectively.
  5. Rent a house/apartment that is uncomfortably small so that you can pocket the extra cash. Not only will it give you lower utility bills, but it will also save you a lot of money in small ways you might not expect. You can do anything for a few years, to have a huge payout for years to come.
  6. Every time we got an expected or unexpected windfall — it always went directly into savings. Our yearly pay increases, tax returns, those silly government stimulus checks, etc.: savings. You don’t miss money you never really see.

Once your expenses are low, dig out of debt. Run like a gazelle {can you tell I’m a Dave Ramsey fan!?!} and knock it out of the park. We paid off over $100,000 in debt in our first few years of marriage. We had over a dozen credit cards, 2 car loans, and my husband’s student loan! It was a HUGE relief to not have those payments any more.

In the months leading up to the purchase: SELL.

Sell everything you can. Clothes, furniture, outdoor gear, toys, baby stuff — sell it all. When we were preparing to move from Tennessee to Germany, I was worried about being under the Army’s designated weight limit for household goods (we ended up being at half our limit, so I had nothing to worry about). But my worries ended up being a blessing, because we made hundreds of dollars by selling stuff. There are so many things that people feel like they must have because they think, “Everyone has one of these, right? It’s not normal to not own one.” 

We don’t own many of these things. Some examples that come to mind are:

  • a grill — I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have a grill besides us.
  • a video game system — we have a TV and a DVD player and a Fire stick. That’s it. No Wii, Xbox, or Playstation here.
  • multiple TVs — doesn’t everyone have an extra TV in the bedroom? We don’t.
  • fancy kitchen gadgets — KitchenAid mixer, Ninja blender, Keurig brewer? Nope, nope, and nope.
  • expensive furniture — we got all of our furniture from yard sales, hand-me-downs, Walmart, or IKEA. Why pay more when something cheaper does the job just as well? (And I don’t buy the argument that “It will last for decades.” Because the truth is that your style and preferences change with the times and you will replace it before then anyway.)

The hardest thing we had to sell was my husband’s baby car. He absolutely adored that thing. (So much so, that there was a no-farting rule in the car.) But it was paid in full, only 2 years old, and worth over $20k (we had paid $24-something for it). When we needed a little more cash for our house, selling the car seemed an obvious choice.

In the weeks leading up to the purchase: RESEARCH.

If you can, choose an area of the country with a low cost-of-living. We had our choice of several regions we could go to, but we specifically ruled out the Washington DC and Chicago areas because the cost of living would be high. We chose a small town in a rural area, with lower priced homes.

Once you know your area, search the various communities to find one with cheaper homes. They may be older or more run-down, but these are some to the concessions we made to buy a house outright. Our house is almost 100 years old, and sure — it needs some updates. (It needed a lot more when we bought it, because we put a lot of loving care into it!)

Find a realtor willing to work with your budget, and one who won’t pressure you into getting a mortgage. Since realtors work on commission, many will try to “encourage” you into getting more house than you should, so their cut is higher. Many also get kickbacks from mortgage brokers for referring clients. We were lucky to have found a realtor that was consistently bringing us houses well below our max-price, even though that meant a smaller commission for her.


When shopping for your house: COMPROMISE.

Keep in mind that a home purchase is not for forever. Once you have the cash to pay for a house, you move in, and you have just absolved yourself of the rent you were paying before. You can continue to save that extra money and upgrade your home in 5-10 years when you have another $100,000 or whatever it is you need to upgrade to your forever home.

So for now, you might end up with a home that is slightly smaller than what you wanted, one in a location that is not your favorite, or has a floor plan you’re not super fond of. Our current house was all of those things. It has one fewer bedroom than I wanted, a floor plan I did NOT like, and a super small property.

Our next house, however, is pretty close to my dream home. It’s 2600 square feet (twice what we have now), 5 bedrooms (one for each kid!), has an extra family room to be our homeschool room, and a great location. It’s everything I wanted. Living there will make the past few years of feeling >>squeezed<< totally worth it!

Also do your best to shop with imagination. So many “undesirable” features of a house can be fixed, upgraded, or changed! In the short 2.5 years that we have lived in this home, we have installed a new heating system, a fence in the yard, a new shed, built-in bookcases, and remodeled the back room with a cubby wall (along with many other upgrades). All of those things made the house more comfortable for us, as well as increasing its value when it came time to sell again. {And when we listed it for sale last week, it was under contract with in THREE DAYS!}


Why we choose to live this way: FREEDOM.

It may seem crazy to some, but living this way gives us freedom like we could not even imagine. My husband was looking for his first job out of seminary and because of our low living expenses, we were able to take any job. We didn’t have to be limited by how much they were paying, but we could follow the path that God set before us without concern for our finances.

This is the epitome of “Living like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”  We may be moving to a new town and taking a job as a poor associate pastor’s family, but we will be moving into our dream home, and still have money left to raise our family, travel, and most importantly — bless people in the name of the Lord.

To me, that’s worth every sacrifice that we’ve made to get here.


How we Paid Cash for our Home! ~ Our Cozy Den
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