So You’re Debt Free… Where are the Granite Countertops?

This post was partially inspired by my dear friend, who asked recently whether we had any home reno projects planned.  She knows we paid off our house two years ago, but as of yet, there aren’t a lot of outward signs that we are living any differently or “living like no one else” as Dave Ramsey would say.  There’s no BMW in the driveway, and, sadly, no granite countertops either.

I pondered our debt-free lifestyle myself over New Year’s as our family discussed travel plans for the summer.  Should we take a dream vacation out West?  Could we afford it?  The “brat” part of my brain said, “You have NO payments, so book the vacation and I’ll take a day at the spa, too, while you’re at it!”

I came to the realization that in the first few years after becoming debt-free, “living like no one else” partially means saving like no one else.  If you really embrace the idea that you are going to be debt-free for life, you have now turned into your own bank.  Want a new car?  The money is coming from your own accounts, not GMAC Financing.  Need a roof? That’s coming our of your short-term savings, not a home equity loan.  Braces?  Kitchen reno?  You get the idea.

It’s kind of daunting.

The up side, though, is huge.  When you set your monthly budget, you are completely free to allocate your money however you see fit.  You don’t have a $400.00 payment to set aside for Nissan, or a $1000 payment to your mortgage company.  You alone determine your goals and how to fund them.  A cherry on the top…. there is more money to work with because you aren’t paying interest to borrow someone else’s money!

We said yes to the vacation.  The spa and the granite countertops will have to wait.

What are your thoughts on living and saving like no one else?


15 thoughts on “So You’re Debt Free… Where are the Granite Countertops?

  1. Economies of Kale

    At the moment I am saving like no one else for a house deposit. As a PhD student my income is small, and I know for a fact that a lot of my colleagues and even some of my working friends don’t save anything. There is always something else they need the money for – the gym, furniture, car loans etc.

    I save a small amount (10% of my income), but over the past three years it’s added up to over $8000. When I do buy a house I will be trying to pay the mortgage as quickly as I can, to get to where you are now.

    I’m glad you chose the vacation, and hope it’s a lot of fun. I’m going on a holiday in June (paid for in cash) and can’t wait 🙂

    1. healthfulsave Post author

      Wow, that is an impressive sum of money you have saved given your main focus is your PhD right now. You are setting yourself up very nicely for the future. I agree – many people – and even couples who work full-time don’t have 8000.00 saved. I would love to hear someday how you came into your money-wise habits.
      Here’s to paid-for vacations!

    2. hailtothenihilist

      You’re amazingly disciplined, Economies. Well done.

      I’m in a position where I have stepped away from a business I founded–which soaked up all my savings but paid a reasonable wage in return–into a high-paying corporate position which I treat as my cash cow. Due to the sudden influx of cash I can pay down my debts (credit card, personal loan and tax debt) and by the end of my contract will have roughly $20k saved. What do I intend to do then? I intend to rebuild my life and become more self-sufficient. I intend to buy a small block of land and build a tiny house or place a renovated caravan on it. I intend to rejig my life so I don’t need a large income. My goal is to live on $8k a year. I’m confident it can be done.

      How might I earn that, you ask? Well, it works out to be $150/week. At the moment I am concentrating on some passive sources (e.g. the business) which will hopefully deliver that. However, it doesn’t take many hours a week doing odd-jobs to accumulate that sort of money. If I have to work one or two days a week, I’m happy with that. Perhaps, instead, I’ll work a couple of weeks here and there. I’ll be working to live. It’s wage-slavery that I want to get away from. I want to be idle, even for a little while. I want the downtime to discover what I really want to do. Unfortunately, in a world of 37.5hr weeks, by the end we haven’t the time or energy to peruse many of our dreams. Or worse, to work out what they are. We work long and hard, usually to satisfy arbitrary, socially conditioned liabilities. I want to work to live. I don’t want to work too much, so I accept that I can’t expect too much by way of a house and things. Which is brilliant…

  2. lilimounce

    Nicely said!

    We paid off our house 4 years ago, and this is the house we’ll stay in for our entire lives, so no future mortgage, ever. We’ve never bought a car on a loan, but instead saved, and only bought what we could afford in cash. We did have a small student loan of my husband’s when we married, but as soon as the payments came due, we paid the whole thing off in one lump, using savings. many people thought we were crazy to pay it all off, when the interest rate was so low. But we knew what would be better for us, to have zero debt.

    Living without debt opens up so many possibilities. We wanted a particular private school for our kids’s high school, and we could swing that. Our two youngest will now be starting university, and we’ll be able to do that without loans. Orthodontia — paid for. Vacations — paid in advance. Christmas — the same. And I know that we could retire right now, if that became a priority. We have enough saved, that it would be possible.

    One thing that we’ve always done, with raising our kids, is when they ask for something, and I don’t want to spend our money on it, instead of telling them “we can’t afford that”, I’ve always told them, “we’re choosing to spend our money differently”, and I remind them of something really great coming up or just passed, that we have chosen to spend our money on. I think it’s a big mistake to tell your kids that you can’t afford things, over and over. They begin to get the idea that they are poor, and when they do have money, they spend like crazy. Instead, our kids are all three sensible with their money, giving thought to their purchases, tithing, and saving a portion.

    We do have to prioritize and give more thought to expenditures, than someone who seems comfortable with credit card debt. But we’ve learned the skills to maximize any size income.

    1. healthfulsave Post author

      Thank you for the wonderful and thoughtful comments. It’s always uplifting to meet someone walking the same path.

      I think your comments on talking to kids about money are spot on. One phrase we often use is “we would need to work that into the budget.” My daughter (8 yrs) doesn’t ask for things often, but when she does it is usually something important to her. Sometimes it might involve a wait of a week or two, but planning makes it possible. We also discuss choices such as … a big vacation this year may mean the next year we vacation within our state. Our small house means that mom can have a part-time job and be home in summer and after school.

      It is wonderful you have created your own “insurance” – if you needed to retire for any reason, you can. That is a goal of ours as it will be possible for my husband to retire at 58, if conditions were right. For now, he may face a furlough next year. While 10-12 unpaid days is not great, it doesn’t really pose any hardship for us either. The savings is the cushion instead of credit lines.

      What an enduring gift you have given your kids of a strong education and no debt after university!

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  4. Simply Money

    We seem to be on the same page! I jumped on the Dave Ramsey Band Wagon about 6 years ago and became debt-free (except our mortgage) about 4 years ago. I completely understand where you are coming from with this post. Once you have the money to spend, you don’t want to spend it. Money seems to take on a different role in your life once debt and payments don’t rule your world. Great blog!

    1. healthfulsave Post author

      Thank you for stopping by. I would say we first heard of Dave about 6 years ago, too! He was on tv for Memorial Day, actually, with excerpts from his Total Money Makeover live show. It was truly a lightbulb, or even a lightning bolt kind of moment. I look forward to telling more of our journey in weeks to come.
      Congratulations on being debt free! I will head over to your blog now.

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  9. meganlouise86

    This is wonderful! My husband and I are starting our journey now. Living in a tiny space as newly weds in order to become debt free before we buy a house. We’re so inspired by your posts and the comments from other people following the same lifestyle! cheers to you all!

    1. Jen @ Dolls Between Us Post author

      So happy for you! Our budgeting together has evolved over time, dating way back to spiral bound notebooks before Excel was invented! Working as joint CEOs when it comes to our money has absolutely been a point of strength in our marriage.
      And we always each have a “mad money” line that we fund from our combined income.


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