This is post one in a five post series describing how I got to this point. Post number two will be up shortly.
It’s hard to believe that four years ago, September 2009, I had zero debt and a sizeable savings account, but the truth is, not only was I soluble, but I had several thousand saved up. Around that time, my then-husband was getting out of the military and we moved back to his home state in Pennsylvania. I had carefully saved money, faithfully tracked all of my purchases with cash, and we had a double-check process in which both of us vetted any purchase (other than groceries) that would total more than $100. I sold one of our cars, and paid off the other one, as well as all our credit card debt. Life was good.
Four months later, we were in an apartment in Pennsylvania. I had just gotten a job, so he stayed home with the kids. The littlest one was breastfed and only ate food that we pureed ourselves, so we didn’t worry about expensive formula or food, but we had no health insurance so we paid for all her well-baby visits out of pocket. Between that, groceries, rent, and the standard costs of maintaining an apartment, we had nearly halfed our savings account, but I had a good job and we weren’t paying for daycare. I had a second job taking the census for a few months and so we had a bit more extra income. Life was still pretty good.
It was good enough, in fact, that we decided after I had been at my job for four months that we wanted to look for a house. We toured a lot of houses in the area, after determining a feasible budget, and then we bought one that was large but in a shady neighborhood in a small city. We finished emptying out our savings account at this point, to pay for closing costs, but we rolled the down payment into the mortgage instead of paying it up front. I’m still a little fuzzy on how that worked. The first mortgage bill was a little bit of a shock; we had not realized how high our escrow would be, due to the taxes in the county we were now residents of, but we were still able to pay for it.
A few months later, the husband decided to go back to school using the GI Bill. Between the GI Bill and my full-time job, even the daycare was a laughable expense, and we paid almost double on our mortgage principle every month. Sometimes we’d charge things to the credit card, like when we needed to buy new furniture, instead of taking it out of the checking account. We also contributed to personal IRA’s and made some small stock investments. Whenever we got small windfalls, like tax refunds or my end of the year bonus, we would spend it on things that made us happy, like tickets to Disney World or a new gaming system or a new computer. We had to have two cars, and we bought one from his parents. It died within a few months, and I purchased a used Toyota Prius. This emptied out our savings account, again.