I've been reading JD's blog for a few days now, and I'm totally hooked. It occurred to me that after reading all of this stuff, I don't really know anyone who likes to talk about finance, without making me feel like I'm "obsessing over money". Yet I find that I have the itch to talk with people about this subject, so here I am.
I'm 37, married, and living in Portland, like JD. In my 20's I started accumulating credit card debt, but unlike many here, I caught on to the perils pretty early and I took a large tax return and paid it all off when it was only around $3000. I picked up a book called the "Cheapskates Monthly Makeover" or something like that, and that was the first time I learned about stuff like envelope budgeting and how to spend what I had in reality, not what I wished I had.
My wife and I cut up our credit cards and started paying for things we wanted in cash. As we started making more, we eventually saved up enough for a down payment on a house. We bought our cars in cash, so aside from our mortgage, we had no other debt.
Two years ago, we realized that the house we paid $125,000 for (and for which we only owed $88,000) was now being valued at over $500,000! That really got me thinking, and I started to ponder what I could do with that money if I sold the house. If I sold it and stayed in the same city, I'd just move laterally or end up with a bigger mortgage (ugh). So I started to wonder what life in another city would be like? Could I upgrade my life as well as my house?
Against the standard advice from some quarters, I decided what I really wanted was to live debt free. Could I achieve that and still live where I'd be happy? After crunching the numbers, I realized that if I sold my house and moved to Portland, I'd essentially do a house swap and be free and clear. After lots and lots of reading and weighing the pros and cons, we did it and it was a great decision for us. We love our new city, and we live in a great, safe neighborhood in a much nicer house than we had before (where we lived in a pretty scary area). Since moving here, my wife quit her job and now pursues art full time. I work a 40 hour week and we have plenty left over to save and also to spend. We invest what we used to spend on the house.
We've been saving towards our retirement, but I still find the formulas entirely confusing and I don't have any solid clue about whether or not we're saving enough, but that's where I am. I hope to get better about that soon.
Debt-free, saving so I can stop working one day, and trying to piece it all together.