:::: MENU ::::

Lost Post


Hi all,

Just popping in quickly. I published a post yesterday (10/10/17) titled, “Facing The Harsh Reality” that, sadly, has disappeared into the interwebs.

The issue was caused by a migration of servers and unfortunately my post was caught in the cross-fire. The big bummer is that there’s no way to recover the post and I don’t have it backed up anywhere. It took me a long time to write (and was pretty tough to publish to begin with), so I don’t know that I’ll be able to recreate it.

If, randomly, anyone has any copy of it (e.g., if you were subscribed and received an emailed version or for some reason took a screen shot or have any other electronic copy of it), please post a comment here so I can reach out to you! I’d love to re-publish it if I’m able but due to the server migration it’s been totally lost and I lack the time (and am feeling a little too defeated about it) to try to recreate it right now. Major frowny face!!!


Living for FREE, eliminating debt FAST


The insane cost of living

How much of your budget is eaten up by your living expenses? Seriously, just consider how quickly we could pay off debt and achieve other financial goals without the costs of living expenses. For most of us, housing is the biggest expense that we have. My mortgage in 2018 was $846 (including my HOA fees) and my monthly salary was roughly $2900. Look at a staple budget using this income and my mortgage/ HOA fees.  

As you can see, this is ridiculous. I’ve highlighted where it shows that my mortgage was 55% of my expenses. This is extremely too large in proportion to my income. It was while paying this mortgage and housing expenses that I felt the most financially strained. My mortgage did since I originally purchased the house due to an increase in my taxes, but still, it just wasn’t the best financial play.

However, this is probably a frequent mistake and common narrative among many people, and especially first-time homeowners. While your housing may not be 55% like my money-munching townhouse, it is probably a significant portion of your income that could be trapping you in debt, preventing you from saving and investing your money, and keeping you from your financial goals. What is the percentage of your housing expense?

You can use this link to go to the budget template that I found or calculate it manually.


Living vs. my life goals

I make a little under the median, regional income of $50,000 per year. Just one of the glorious teacher appreciation gifts. For the average person in this income range, paying typical expenses like housing cost, car payments, student loans, utilities, child care, and more, can easily leave $500 and less flexible money to spend. What this meant for me was that I was very restricted with my salary and had little money to pay off debt (this was actually around the time that I started missing some of my student loan payments), put toward savings, or find investments that made me money. This is not how I wanted to live. 

To achieve goals like debt reduction, investments, and savings, have you considered first tackling your larger expenses, which is probably housing? It is draining to me, to cut down on smaller expenses like occasional movie tickets and the like, which may take up 4% of my budget, if my 55% housing expense is still eating away at my income.

So here is what I did.

Get your housing expense paid… by someone else

Enter the term “house hacking.” I learned it on Bigger Pockets from Scott Trench and it is perhaps one of the top 5 most powerful financial concepts that I have learned thus far. House hacking is a way to drastically offset the cost of living. Essentially, the concept is that you purchase, or even rent, a home that is a multifamily property or one that can be rented out while you live in a unit. This can look different for people and families in varying cities and situations, but I believe that it is definitely possible for everyone and every family.

A family can buy a duplex or triplex and live in one unit and rent out the other(s). A single parent in a single-family house could rent out a spare room or even garage space to someone looking for storage. Or, in my case, someone could buy a condo and rent out the additional rooms.

Here is what I did. I found a condo with 4 beds and 4 baths for 126k. (Yeah, I know how crazy that sounds. It is economic, student-style housing, in a mid-range southern city that was a rare find). I applied for a loan through the State Employees Credit Union. For teachers and government employees, the SECU is one of your best friends! I got a conventional ARM loan at 5% interest and no mortgage insurance. This bring my monthly payment including taxes and my HOA fee to about $910 a month.

How much will I make?

My plan is to rent out each of the rooms at $530 including all utilities, which is an average to good cost for a single room in my area.

The following shows a breakdown of my expenses and income related to the condo (some are estimates).

Mortgage & HOA Fees
Housemate #1
Cable and Internet (AT&T bundle with 4 boxes. I will not have cable in my room and will just use Amazon stick.)

Housemate #2

Energy (average from previous owners)

Housemate 3


Water (rough estimate)

Vacancy/ Maintenance fund

Total Expenses

Total Income


Leftover= $150. Y’all, I’m earning money just by living in my house!

My house goes from being a negative expense to an income generating machine! First the first time in my life, I feel able and prepared to reach my goal of financial independence.  How could you offset your living expense? What would you do with the saved money? 

Look at the extra $846 in my budget that I will put toward investing. If you can, consider significantly reducing your housing expense by either house hacking, or, if this is not possible, creating a shared-living experience. I hope you join me on my journey in my first house-hacking experience.

Hope’s Weekly Budget – Week of October 8


We are almost at the end of our first week of our No Spend month. It has been really hard. It’s amazing how much you suddenly crave a candy bar and soda when you have committed to not spending any extra money! I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well the kids have taken to the challenge, especially Gymnast.  Three nights a week we are an hour away from home until 9pm or later, I have gotten in the habit of getting him something to eat on the way home. He didn’t even blink when I reminded him about No Spend Month, and contentedly waited until we got home to eat. (I am keeping power bars in the car for him as there are times he really can’t wait to eat.)

We did eat out once, but in my defense, we did not spend any “money”…I had a gift card to Chic Fil A with $23 left on it. We used $18 to eat dinner one night while we were in South Carolina waiting on Sea Cadet to finish his Police Explorer meeting.  It was a long day and I just couldn’t wait until 10pm when we got home to eat.

Next Week’s Budget


1099 10-Oct-17 150
Groceries 10-Oct-17 -25
Internet 10-Oct-17 -65
Auto-Gas 12-Oct-17 -35
1099 13-Oct-17 850
Savings 13-Oct-17 -85
Allowance 13-Oct-17 -100
Debt Pymt 13-Oct-17 -200
Clothing 13-Oct-17 -250
Debt Pymt 13-Oct-17 -250

Clothes Shopping

We go clothes shopping this weekend. Gymnast is going to wait until next week since he has a full schedule (the $250 in this upcoming week’s budget is part of last week’s $900 I had set aside, not in addition to.) They were all thrilled with their $250 budget, and I was thrilled that it left me with $150 to buy a few things for myself!

Ashley L.’s BAD Introduction


Hi! I’m Ashley L., a 28-year-old, single teacher. I was raised in a southern, middle-class household and in an extended family comprised of almost 5 public school teachers. Growing up I, all I wanted to do was to teach. But I knew that I would not make much money and so I tried to plan for a modest lifestyle.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to become one of the new BAD bloggers and to share that story with you! I’m also pretty nervous because my debt story is from a slightly different point of view. I do not have tons of consumer debt. I was blessed to be able to earn a scholarship that covered the costs of my tuition for undergrad, then earned my M. Ed. from a very inexpensive program, and recently got $5000 forgiven from my student loans. This brings my student loans to a total of $8000. I have about $14000 on a car loan and was able to refinance this note to an interest rate of .99%. I have had some build up on credit cards, but was able to pay them off by cutting my living costs.

Last year, I was living in a small southern city with my boyfriend (who I am so happy to say is the love of my life) and my adorable rescue dog. Then the funding for my position at my school was cut. I was devastated. I felt pretty screwed over and eventually relocated to another city about an hour and a half away from my boyfriend and my “doghter.” This made me get intentional about my financial security and hyper-aggressive about my financial goals. I committed to being a woman and a teacher who is financially astute and successful. I do not want my life to be dictated by money, I want to dictate the flow of money to create my life.

I am currently trying to reach my financial goals of eliminating debt and reaching financial independence by: 1) eliminating my entire housing expense from my budget by house-hacking (frugality!), 2) renting out my primary house as a rental property and doing small side hustles (investments and additional income!), and 3) feeding money into retirement accounts (savings!). I am happy to share my journey with the BAD community and to be able to learn from and enjoy this opportunity.


Frugal Potluck Recipes


Hi Friends!

I hope your weeks are going well!

I wanted to pop in today to crowd-source some frugal/budget-friendly potluck recipes! At our kids’ school, they’re having a teacher appreciation luncheon next week and I signed up to bring a dessert item. And in a couple weeks we have a family-friend’s BBQ that we’ll be attending. The friends are providing the main dish, but everyone is asked to bring a side or dessert.

In thinking about my normal “crowd favorites”, I realized that they all seem to have one thing in common…they’re not very frugal! They may be tasty and, in some cases, extremely easy to put together (I have a layered dip people rave about that is SO EASY!). BUT, there are so many different ingredients and/or the ingredients are expensive enough that I find a single dish to run upwards of $10-15. In looking at our new grocery budget ($150/week max, but I’m trying to stick to closer to $100/week), I really cannot justify spending up to $15 on a single dessert or side item. At home, I could scrape up an entire meal for our family of 4 on that amount! Why on earth would I spend that much on a single side dish?

So I thought I’d consult with the experts….YOU!!!

Do you have any frugal potluck recipes that you’d be willing to share in the comments (or link to recipes online)?

Just for fun, I want to share a link for a dessert people go crazy over! Part of it could be homemade instead of store-bought (e.g., dough), but if all store-bought, it tends to run me about $10 or so. It’s always a favorite, but not necessarily a very frugal one! (Picture credit from this website).

Cash Envelope System


As you all know by now, one area where our spending has gotten out-of-control is in the realm of food (groceries and eating out). To try to combat the ever-increasing line item in our monthly budget, I decided to return to the cash envelope system. It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve done cash envelopes. But they helped me once, I know they can help me again.

To start, I’m using envelopes for eating out ($200/month) and groceries ($600/month). This represents a HUGE decrease compared to what we have been spending the past few months. Our groceries, for instance, have trended over $1,000/month the past several months. And our eating out/restaurant budget has trended in the $350-$500ish range. Just a disgusting amount of money spent on FOOD!

Reducing down to $800/month for all food (restaurants + eating out) is a big savings for us!

Here’s how I’ve figured it:

$600month/4 weeks = $150/week. Because I want to save a little money for mid-week perishables (we always run out of milk and fresh produce), my goal is to stick to $110-120ish for my big/initial grocery trip. That saves about $30ish for a smaller mid-week grocery run (and/or leaves some wiggle room for the last half week of the month).

I’ve been doing the cash envelope system for a month now (I started at the beginning of September) and so far, so good. My only “wrench” this month is that I really need to hit Costco to stock up on some bulk items. Does anyone else find it impossible to get out of Costco for under $100?!



Because of our need for some bulk items, I’m actually going to try to limit our grocery store budget to closer to $100-110/week so I can save the excess for two weeks to have a solid $80-ish bucks or so for a Costco trip. This way, I’ll be able to get my bulk stuff but still be sticking to our overall grocery budget!

Do you have a Costco (or Sam’s Club) membership? How do you manage to save while buying in bulk?

October – No Spend Month


Ashley and I must be in sync. While she did an impromptu “No Spend Week,” the kids and I have been planning for a No Spend Month. The idea has actually been noodling around in my head for a while, but the push came with the loss of our second car last week.

The first blog I ever followed, was actually a young SAHM mom, who did no spend months quite regularly. She eventually shut down her blog, but I so admired her. Another thing that has kind of pushed me in this direction is my kids. Some of them are really struggling with shame and envy. Ok, I struggle with it myself. While I know exactly why we are where we are, they are having a harder time with it. Specifically they are struggling with seeing how other’s live and then looking at their own lives. My mom heart hurts.

I know in my head we are in the right place and I am doing my best. But as you can see from our budget, spending has ballooned since my income skyrocketed (especially compared to being practically homeless and jobless.) So we are going cutting back to the bone for one month.

No Spend Week Rules

These are the changes we are making for our “No Spend Month:”

  • I am only going to pay the minimum due on all my bills. (You will see the weekly payouts in my Friday posts.)
  • We are cutting our grocery budget to $25 a week for milk and fresh fruit and veggies and eating through our freezer and pantry which is VERY well stocked. We are looking forward to being creative with our pantry, at least for the first couple of weeks.
  • I am going to continue to give the kids allowance, but we will NOT use $200 “spending” money this month.
  • We have one exception to our minimized budget, we are going to move forward with the “clothes” money this month because frankly, the kids all NEED clothes. Because we do it in one fell swoop, we did agree that we have permission to eat out the two days we will be shopping. (Because we are down to one car, I have to take all three kids shopping, and because we live in a tiny town, the closest shopping other than Wal-Mart is an hour away.) We are going to shop this coming Friday and Saturday.

Wish us luck. I think we are prepared. We have prepped with laundry detergent and toiletries and I am confident this month will be a great learning and bonding experience for all of us. The kids have bought in. We are going to use the experience to have weekly talks about money management and making wise choices and even sacrifice.  I’m just grateful we get to choose our sacrifices this time rather than having them forced on us by job and hoe loss as we have experience in the last couple of years.

Have you helped your child deal with envy or shame regarding circumstances beyond their and sometimes your control? I would love some guidance.