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8 Years Later . . .We Did It!

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8 years ago we set a goal for this very day, and with tears in my eyes I can officially say – WE DID IT.

8 years ago today Zach and I bought our very first fixer-upper – an old Victorian built circa 1890 in the heart of my hometown in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

Zach, 9-month-old Gracie, and I had just moved back from Baltimore, MD having both finished our first Masters Degrees from John Hopkins – mine in nursing and Zach’s in education.

Zach had gotten a teaching and coaching job at his alma mater, and I had a part-time job as an ER nurse practitioner at a local hospital.

We were energy-rich but cash poor, so with help of generous family members, we borrowed the money for a 20% down payment to our infamous first home – the Vintage Victorian.

We had no idea what we were doing, but I loved the design work and learning new DIY skills as we went.

Not only did it test our knowledge of power tools, but it also challenged our ability to manage finances – mine in particular.

In this space, it is easy to highlight the pretty success story while skipping over the ugly struggle, but I believe it is because of the mistakes made that lessons are learned and transformation is truly empowered.

I have always managed our finances, but the truth is it has taken me a really long time to learn how to do it well.

To me, money has always been a means to an end, not a destination.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart, but as I’ve learned over the years, financial wealth is not about making money, it is about saving money by learning how to live below and within your means.

That last part I did not do well in our first fixer upper.

Although we still made a significant profit on our first home (we bought it for $130K and sold it 2 years later for $225K), we were in credit card debt for the majority of the 2 years that we lived there.

I was impatient and had a hard time waiting for our bank account to beef back up before starting another project.

And for good or for bad, the debt didn’t bother me because in my head it was an investment that I trusted we would make back plus some.

Which we did.

That being said, when we sold our first home and cleared our credit card debt I vowed I would never do that again in our second fixer-upper – the Colonial Foreclosure.

I wish I could say we were never in credit card debt the 3 years we lived in that 2nd house, but the times we were became few and far between.

My financial management wasn’t perfect, but it had significantly improved.

I became much more business savvy in the way of using tax-deductible loans like HELOC’s and home equity loans (remember my degrees were in nursing NOT business, ha).

I was back in school full time for my second Masters in Nursing while still working in the ER and acting as the asst medical director for our stroke program and Zach had started up his second Masters in Education (an admin cert) part-time.

We knew that in order to reach the goal we had set for ourselves this was part of the deal.

There were nights when Zach would get home after 7p from football, put our 2 and a half kids to bed (I was pregnant with Lily 🙂 ), finish up school work, and then sand drywall until midnight.

We hustled hard.

We did so well on our second fixer upper again (bought it for $220K and sold it for $320K) that we decided we would re-invest one more time before building our forever home.

And because I had learned how to properly leverage a credit card by this time (no credit card debt since) the profit allowed us to not only put the 20% downpayment on our 3rd fixer upper but also to clear most other debt (cars gone and almost all student debt).

Which brings us to our current little French Country Cottage which we have now been in for about 2 and a half years.

8 years ago when we first started this crazy journey I mentioned that we borrowed money from generous family members.

It was loaned to us at such a low-interest rate that we just set the payment plan on auto-pilot for a term of 8 years.

For the last 8 years, Zach and I made it our goal that by the time we paid off this first fixer-upper loan that we would have enough money saved up to buy our forever property the following year.

Well with tears running down my cheeks as I type this, today that last payment officially transferred out of our account, and I am pleased to say 8 years later . . . WE DID IT.

Despite saving for adoption costs and me stepping away from bedside medicine to start a virtual business – WE DID IT.

We are officially on track to buy our dream property and build our forever home next year if the right opportunity arises (assuming we can finish the basement of this house in a timely manner, ha).

For anyone who has made it this far down memory lane with me, I hope you know that this post is not about the money because quite frankly I hold no value in money at all.

I do, however, put great value in sharing real-life stories – the struggle and the success – so that you too feel empowered to make dreams come true.

One imperfect day at a time.

I am so excited to share our building journey with you when the time comes. It is, after all, why I started a blog in the first place!

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  1. FIRST OFF: THANK YOU BOTH for your service as a teacher and a caregiver! I am so happy for you! You have a lovely family and story! Best wishes for success!

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