Paying Cash for Our House is Only Half the Story

Growing up, I loved listening to Paul Harvey’s, The Rest of the Story. He has an amazing gift for taking a great story, then finding the bigger story behind the headline. We paid cash for our first home. But this is the rest of the story. Because after 10 years of pinching pennies it was one thoughtful, counter-cultural choice that brought us into this “work-optional” kind of life.

How to pay cash for your first home

6 months before my 30th birthday, I signed the papers and bought our first home with cash.

I wrote about how we shouldn’t buy everything we can afford. It took 10 years of saving and investing by not buying all the things we could afford to save enough money to buy our first home. 10 years of saying, “This thing is nice, but we have bigger dreams.”

Finally after 10 years, the time was just right. With stocks going up and housing prices crashing, we fulfilled a long held dream and paid cash for our very first home.

In 10 years we had gone from $50,000 in debt (student loans, credit cards, and medical bills) to $200,000 in cash and stocks on very modest incomes. (Combined we averaged $15,000-$60,000 income.) Homes prices were at a low point. In that market, we could have bought a rather comfortable home in our area for around $150,000. Or a nice home for $200,000.

That would have been a responsible and respectable choice. To save for 10 years and buy a home we could pay for in cash. Maybe for some it would have felt like the perfect reward for all our hard work and saying no all those years to the things we could have afforded. Get out of $50,000 of debt, save for 10 years and buy a lovely $200,000 home for cash. But we didn’t do that.

Here is what we actually did: the rest of the story.

We bought the ugliest, nastiest home that would accommodate the family we were hoping to have and spent 5 years remodeling.

After we put in our offer, a horrified family member said, “Oh sweety, you aren’t really going to live here, are you?” The home was old, cramped, FULL of black mold, with a dug up dirt patch for a yard and in a less than perfect neighborhood. A lovely sight, to be sure.

So why in the world, if we could have bought a NICE  home for cash (easily in the definition of afford by any standard) would we choose this dump?

It was $50,000.

After saving for 10 years, we bought a home with just 25% of the money we had saved.

I just want to pause here for a moment.

Few people in America end up being able to walk away from their 9-5 jobs in their 30’s.

But few people would have made that choice.

Life presents us with a variety of choices. Trade-offs.

Instead, we could have done any of these other reasonable things:

  • Bought a $150,000 house with cash and kept $50,000 in investments
  • Put $100,000 down on a nice $200,000 home, kept $100,000 invested and had a modest mortgage.
  • Bought an OK $100,000 house with cash, and kept $100,000 invested

Maybe those other options seem more reasonable than buying the ugly, nasty home we did. Then remodeling it every night after a long day at our 9-5 jobs. Working every weekend and holiday to fix it up.  Work spanning 5 years!

Why? Are we gluttons for punishment? Do we TRY to make life harder? Oh, trust me. People asked me that.

Because it wasn’t like Chip and Joanna Gain or the Property Brothers were standing there holding our hands, promising a lovely home in 6 weeks. It was just me, steadying my hand by tightly squeezing Mr. Montana’s hand. We looked at this hot mess of a house, and armed with exactly zero skills or tools said, “I think there is a You Tube video we can watch. It’ll be fine. Really.” Neither of us fully convinced of this fact.

I need and want less than the average person, because I need and want MUCH more than the average person.

Let me unpack this for a minute.

It’s not that I have this huge list of wants or needs I struggle to contain. I just don’t have that many because I have narrowed my focus to a few that I REALLY want.

I don’t need a nice car.

I don’t need a big office.

I don’t need to order an expensive menu item when I go out.

I don’t need to buy “good” wine.

I don’t need it. And I don’t want it because….

I need and want MUCH more.

I need and want the things that culture says are impossible and unrealistic.

I want time. I want freedom. I want to be true to my calling and passion. I want to be an exceptional parent. I want this elusive work/life balance. I want to create a legacy and leave the world a much, much better a place for having been here. I want to help others be the best version of themselves. I want to do 3 hours of meaningful, high impact work a day. I want to burn like a blaze of glory that is seen 7 generations later. I want the unreasonable.

I’m not above hard work, struggle or gross if it means I get a shot at those bigger, more impossible things.

I’m just not. Never have been, and never will be. Growing up poor taught me I might have to work twice as hard, twice as long, and put up with more crap just to make half the progress. And I said, “OK.” If that’s the price of admission. I’ll pay it.

One of the most annoying things I hear people say is “Oh, I would NEVER…” Well, you know what? I would. I’m not above it, or better than, or embarrassed by, or too good for whatever it was that offended their senses so much. I’m the kind of person that just does what needs to get done. Even if it’s hard, or uncomfortable, or is a knock to my ego.

Because I want MUCH more.

So I bought the $50,000 ugly ass house.

And then we bought rentals. And kept money in investments. And quit my 9-5 job. And adopted 3 kids who really needed an amazing family. And Mr. Montana left the 9-5. And now we have enough passive income to cover all our bills and $650,000 in net worth.

We get to devote all our energy and time to those crazy impossible and unrealistic things that we feel a burning calling towards.

And I say, “Oh, I would never….” Here is how I finish that, “Oh, I would never…. trade my biggest dreams, impact, and legacy away for something I never truly cared about just to be a little more normal.”

I pack my lunch.

I lived in an old camper so we could pay down debt faster.

I drive a beater car.

I pulled moldy sheet-rock out of my basement and cleaned up back-upped sewer…4 freaking times.

But I won’t trade away the things DEEPLY important to me. 


Culture and societies job is to push us into the middle.

To keep everyone as close to average as possible.


And my job is to push back enough to make sure I’m doing my most important work.


“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

We all are going to trade our energy, time and money away for something. I bought the ugly house because I wanted the unreasonable more than the comfortable. If we had bought a nicer home we could have adopted those 3 kids OR left the 9-5 jobs.

But not both.

I wanted both. And was willing to pay for it, quite literally, with the blood, sweat, and tears we put into this house.

There is this verse from the New Testament, in Romans 8:

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Buying that ugly house, that “suffering” is so small, so insignificant, so barley worth mentioning when compared to all the amazing things that flowed from that one choice. Being able to adopt 3 special need kids, having both of us home when we added our sweet baby #5, leaving our 9-5 jobs, taking a 6 week trip last summer, being able to buy 2 rentals and have that passive income or being able to travel to the beach for 2 weeks this month just because I had an urge to sit quietly and gaze out at the ocean…. the “glory”, the reward, is 1000x bigger than the pain of fixing up this house ever was. In light of that, it hardly feels like a sacrifice or trade-off. Because we chose something much, much better than what we were giving up.

We tend to want to just weigh the struggle, or sacrifice in the moment. But we forget to measure the reward as well. Sometimes, if we weight the reward accurately, we see that it is SO much bigger than the current sacrifice.

We made 1000 frugal choices to help us save $200,000, and 1 REALLY important one when we bought our home.

If you know what matters to you, what really, really matters: be unreasonable. Do unreasonably hard things. Run unreasonably fast towards those things. And when everyone says of your choices, “Oh, I would never…” Just think to yourself, “Yeah, I have a “Oh, I would never” as well.” They can have theirs. You have yours. Maybe their life will never be bigger than granite counter tops and a guest bath on the main floor or a new car every 4 years. Your wants and needs might create an impact that lasts 7 generations. What you are “giving up” will seem so small and insignificant compared to that, it will be hardly worth mentioning.


For Conversation:

  1. Does anyone else miss Paul Harvey?
  2. I have a love-hate relationship with House Hunters, and yet still watch it while I work out at the gym. I do like Property Brothers, but why do they have to spend $100k+ on renovations? Any HDTV rants and raves?
  3. Fun fact: in our area of about 100k people, there was only 1 other offer on our house. We actually offered $50,100 as our “biggest and best” offer. We spent 5 years and $30,000 on renovations. Our home is now worth about $185,000.
  4. Ok, enough stalling on my part…what do you all think?

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74 thoughts on “Paying Cash for Our House is Only Half the Story

  1. If you don’t mind, where do you live where houses are $50K? Either way, congrats on paying full cash by age 30, for a house. That’s a tremendous achievement! I used to watch property brothers and all that, because my wife had it on in the background, but not anymore. It’s all the same, all the HGTV stuff. Some millennial couple saying that they pick flowers for a living, and their budget is $1.5MM, LOL, WHAT?

    • We live in the Flathead valley in Montana. But 5 years ago there were a flood of very, very sad foreclosed homes that were horribly neglected by banks. Now it’s hard to find anything under $150,000. Which is why we had saved $200,000 to buy our first home, and there were really nice homes at that time for $200,000. Now the nice homes are going for closer to $250,000-$300,000.

  2. Paul Harvey was my jam as a kid! My mom loved to listen to talk radio stations and he’d be on every night ( i think at 6 or 7). Yeah I was a weird kid. House Hunters is such a farce. They literally find someone who bought a house, and then they have to pretend why they don’t like the other two. The only show I can stand on HGTV now is Rehab Addict. She inspired me to buy my beautiful historic home and get her back to her former glory! (which, first time around, I’m paying people to do since it’s rough. Next time I’ll do the repairs. $6500 well spent)

    • I used to like Income Property, but I’m not sure it’s still on. I generally go to the gym at the same time, so I have a limited viewing of cable TV. =) Oh, and the home inspection show. That one was actually rather useful for me as I look at potential properties.

      And it’s smart to hire help the first time. We had to hire out a few of the trades. It was too much to learn at once. But over the years our skills and tools have grown. Now there is very little skilled labor we need to hire out for the kinds of projects we do. You can learn a lot in 5 years if you take it one small project at a time. And I’m sure with your rentals it will give you lots of opportunity. =)

  3. What a lovely story. I can really relate. What drives me crazy right now is the comment “You know what you should do?” Like the Joneses come over to our (paid for) house and its small, so you know what you should do? Finish the basement/upstairs and double the square footage of your house! But its just my husband and I, no kids, why on earth would we need to double the size of our house, to heat and clean literally twice as much space? Why ON EARTH.

    Or, we’ve got this fledgling business we’re building on the side, selling jewelry online and at art festivals a few weekends a year. And then come the Joneses, and HEY, you know what you should do? Get a gorgeous storefront! Just get a business loan, pay literally thousands a year in rent. Don’t work out of your shady basement for free! I would never do that. (haha)

    I want to remark, “You know what you should do? Stop wasting your money on shit that doesn’t matter. I would NEVER do that.” 🙂

    • Oh my gosh I busted out laughing, “You know what you should do?” Only a 1,000 times have we heard that! And I totally agree about the cleaning, heating and cooling. Plus filling with stuff that also has to be maintained. Like, I’m grateful that we have what we need, but I really have no interest in taking care of a bunch of stuff or square footage we don’t need.

  4. Gosh, you are an outstanding writer! Please keep telling your stories and truths. We’re all ears ?
    So many of us have endured that scorn you felt from friends and family! Any idea what that person thinks today?
    I’ll share an awesome quote that I stick to, “Remember, don’t take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.”
    They usually mean well, even when it cuts pretty deep.

    • Oh, thanks so much Courtney! Here is the funny and sad thing and probably a whole post on it’s own. Once our house was finished and comfortable and lovely, everyone started to ask when we were going to move to something bigger. =( You can never win. At the end of the day, we just have to love the choices we make because they are the right ones for us. I heard that courage is letting go of what others think. It’s crazy hard. But the more we create a life we love the easier it gets. But damn. The first 5-10 years, when we were still dirt poor, hustling, struggling, just trying to get ahead and people were critical, it was SO hard. Now that we are work optional, with a paid off house, and could leave the 9-5, =) well, it’s easier to brush off the critics. A LOT easier. =)

  5. It’s surprising how even shunning the norm a little bit creates reactions in people. We get asked all the time if we’re planning to buy a house. My response is always, “it would be nice to have a yard, but we own the condo outright, so the idea of signing up for another $200k in debt just to get a yard and a garage doesn’t sound very good.”

    • Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I’m sorry. At least a 100 times, at LEAST, we have gotten that question. But that is a PERFECT example. $200,000 is a crap load of money for some grass and a garage! When you think about interest rates, you might end up paying $300,000-$400,000 over a 20 or 30 year loan. Plus property taxes and maintenance. Considering two people can comfortably travel around the world for a year with about $75,000, well…holy crap. Talk about small “suffering” in exchange for major glory!!! You could easily do 3 year long round the world trips over the next 30 years instead of buying grass. The condo starts to feel like a dream maker!

  6. This is such an amazing story. So often people want the life you have without putting in the work you’ve done. You got to where you are by continually making the difficult choice, the unpopular choice. Such a great testament to knowing what you value and placing the importance there.

    • One day I might write a post about ALL the “Oh, I would never’s” that we have heard. When ever we made a choice that would work out really well, there would be a whole chorus around us singing it. Like when Mr. Mt joined the Army. It was a great option…that NO one else wanted. When we got a roommate…for 3 years…after having 1, then 2 kids. That alone put about $30,000 in our pocket. When we moved into a dumpy, old camper to save $200 a month so we could pay off debt faster. “Oh, I would never…” Sigh Well, I’m really, really happy with where we ended up. And I hope the same for them. =) But I like writing here, because sometimes the tide is so strong against progress, that we can get tired walking it all alone.

      • I would devour an “I would never” post!

        I think money is like dieting and parenting, everyone wants you to do things the same way they do, because if we are doing it differently does that mean I’m doing it wrong? It pushes people out of their comfort zones, which most hate.

  7. I have nothing to say about #1 and #2 from your list, but regarding #3 – you’re true badass. You really are.

    Buying a house for cash is one thing, but buying an ugly house for cash when you have enough money for a decent house is another thing. You made tough and unpopular decision, you were questioned. But you made it, now you’ve got this “How’d you like me now” moment. Congrats!!

    And again, you’re badass!!!!

    Great post, thanks a lot!

    • Thanks! It was tough call, especially beings we had no experience. But honestly, the people would still say, “oh I would never..” Chasing down approval of others is a losers game. There is just no winning. But I definitely have a “I really love my life and lifestyle we have created.” And no matter what others think, they can’t take that away.

      • There will always be people who will judge you, or say you’re crazy or something else, just because you’re not following their path. What I’ve found that works for me is “Just smile and wave, boys! Just smile and wave!” (c) Madagascar

        • OH MY GOSH. That is the funnest use of that quote!!! HA! I’m going to use that ALL the time. Ah, can’t stop laughing. 90% of the movies I watch are cartoons, so that is totally my jam. =) Thanks, that basically made my day.

  8. It’s not the choice I could make (physically) but I can absolutely love it and the reasons you did it.

    I’m a bit biased, though, I seem to be surrounded by awesome people like you making unusual decisions to save or make money. Some family spend their days buying utter teardowns and living in them while they take it down to studs and rebuild it bit by bit. Another set of friends spent their early years living in recently vacated rentals learning how to fix them up in exchange for cheap rent and a bit of pay. Our last set of friends lived on a really interesting stretch of land in a house no larger than a gardening shed as caretakers for several years and saved enough to buy their home outright.

    I hope that it’s contagious and more people start thinking in terms of their own rather than the terms set forth by society.

    We’re looking at doing massive renovations ourselves, soon. Since I can’t DIY that, I’m looking for other ways for us to maximize our savings and investments to build the life with choices we want.

    • I think finding awesome people and keeping them in close proximity is SO helpful! There is a ton of research about how change will ripple through social influence. So, according to research, it might in fact be contagious. =) There are a 100 ways this will apply. But in the house area, even being knowledgeable and involved with the contractors will help save you money. When we had to hire skilled labor, we would buy the materials ourselves. By finding items on sale, or clearance, we saved on the hard cost, plus we didn’t have to pay the contractors to do the shopping.

  9. Wonderful article! I would love to write more but I have little kids running around and I can’t really collect my thoughts…I know you get this. ??But I did want you to know how much I am enjoying the content from your blog and this article is so true on so many levels. Keep writing and sharing please!

    • Thanks so much Kristi! Just that you took the time to leave a note is awesome. =) I’m glad it’s helpful! And keep up the good work there. I know life at home with littles is fully, and crazy, and loud. Just the fact you take a few minutes out of your day to invest in pf stuff is HUGE. I know at times we can be surrounded by kids, yet feel rather alone. But you have a friend in Montana cheering you on!

  10. I love this! Kudos to you! We didn’t pay cash. Or I guess I should say I didn’t. But I put down 25% and I bought a lot less house and in a different kind of neighborhood. And you know what? We have so many people over who say things like, If I had only given your subdivision a chance. In fact, a cousin just moved in down the road!

    I’d never…is such a dangerous statement, isn’t it? Just like I tell my students when we are talking test tips, beware the always and the never statements.

    • Boy, you guys put in a lot of work into your home as well, if I remember. And I love your post about living at home, until you moved into that house. It’s such a great example of a “sacrifice” that gave you SO much more. Plus you are paying it down lighting fast! =)

  11. Your family is such an inspiration. With the time and blood/sweat/tears, you also gained a ton of knowledge and confidence. You now know that you can figure out how to do anything, and that knowledge is priceless.

    • It was confidence building. Every time we do some unreasonably hard thing, I feel taller, and more grounded. It pushes out the fear. Now when we walk into scary homes, I can just shrug. I see past the nasty carpet, mold, everything falling down and just see the studs and foundation. I was talking to a realtor about an investment property that hit the market. She said, “Oh, no. You wouldn’t want that. It’s really scary!” I just said, “Well, I don’t scare easy.”

  12. You were incredibly smart to buy an ugly-ass home with cash, do all the work to make it comfortable for you, and increase its value.

    Unlike so many crazy-ass New Yorkers who relocated here to North Carolina, we bought our house with cash. Most of them could have taken their home sale profits and bought with cash too. But they preferred to get back into a mortgage and spend their profits on who-knows-what. I’m thinking, new cars, fancy vacations, furniture, and a lot of eating out.

    • I hate payments. I have no idea why people so happily sign up for them. Good for you for finding a place you could pay cash for! If I have to choose between early retirement aka FREEDOM, over more square footage, well…phesh. I don’t know exactly how small we would go, but for our 7 people we would go smaller than our current 1650, that’s for sure!

  13. Isn’t it amazing how that one choice impacted your life!? You are a great example of what can happen when you’re able to go against the norm and ignore the naysayers. Great post – full of so much truth.

    I’ve heard sooo many people tell me “I would never..” in the last few days. We finally closed on our rental house. Family and friends, as well as the neighbors in the rental house neighborhood think we’re nuts. And aren’t afraid to tell us. Granted, it’s going to be a ton of work and it’s completely gross (so. much. mouse. poop.), but it will get us one step closer to financial freedom. And, in my opinion, that makes it worth it.

    • Yeah on closing on your rental!!! And now the fun begins. You should start thinking that Madagascar quote from earlier in the comments. =)

      This post was getting long, wild and unruly, but another thing I wanted to add was the fact that we weren’t 100% sure all those other things would work out. Like 0% sure. =) We had no idea we would buy our first rental, and especially our second. We had no idea what kind of cash flow they would create. The adoptions weren’t even a sure thing. We had signed up, but our kids wouldn’t show up at our door till 18 months later. And I WASN’T planning on 3 coming at once! Or the fact that we would unexpectedly be expecting after 7 years of infertility! We just knew this one good choice would open up more good choices. But we had no idea what those choices would be when we stepped out in faith.

  14. Nicely done. You are very impressive in your ability to figure out your goals and go full speed towards them. I think you are write that society tries to push us all towards the middle. It creates a set of defaults for us that become the “acceptable” choices. Each point at which we move away from the default is difficult. When we stack these on top of each other the difficulty multiplies. We get more pushback from friends and family. We face more “I would never”s. Congrats to you on pushing through all of that.

    • You are TOTALLY right! And it does compound. The push back feels personal and disproportionate. 100 people could be over the moon happy about us adopting. But there is always that 1 person who thinks it’s too complicated or messy. 1000 people will think that adopting special need kids is a great thing to do. But there is always that 1 loud, critical voice that says, “Well, I don’t want THOSE kids in my family.”

      That’s part of the reason I want to write about the hard points. Because we live at a time, when often we are taught that if somethings is unreasonably hard, then it’s the wrong thing to do, or we are doing it wrong. But often we are on EXACTLY the right path.

      I was made to do hard things! And there are a whole bunch of things in this world that can only be paid for with HARD. There is no other door. We can either pay the admission price or go home.

  15. Great post but there is only one problem! I’m dying to see before and after pictures. Yes yes, I love house porn. lol! That definitely was a brave decision, but obviously one that was totally right for you. I would have been terrified of trying to do renovations myself. I think bucking trends is never easy. People always want to give their opinion on what “they” would do as if it’s the only way.

    • Shoot! I should totally go get some pictures! Ok, I will work on that. =) And I was terrified! Honestly, still am whenever we do something new. I set tile for the first time over the winter, and was SO scared! The first time I scooped a pile of thin set and tried to spread it on my floor, I thought my heart my burst out of my chest.

  16. Great post! I enjoyed Paul Harvey. Have you listened to Mike Rowe’s podcast? Very similar to his stories, also short and sweet 🙂
    I agree it’s hard to deal with people that don’t live/understand this lifestyle, they always think we are depriving ourselves and it’s actually the opposite. We have seen the light and know the truth!! It’s so much better when you pretty much step aside of consumer culture.

    • You are right, when what we want is so BIG, the cost seems small. Some people only weight the sacrifice, but never take the time to weight the glory. Side by side, there is no comparison.

  17. Ms. Montana! This is such a great read, and I’m excited to share it. I’ve been collecting stories of people with modest upbringings/beginnings who’ve made choices to become financially independent. Do you have a post about that by chance that you could refer me to? As far as radio… Yes, I miss Paul Harvey and SO much more about older radio programs. We only had AM radio in the car as a kid. When my dad and I would come home from events late at night, there would often be radio theater on. It was so great!

  18. Great post! And you have inspired me to start ripping down plaster – lol. When we first bought our old, red brick farmhouse, I spent a week or two ripping out plaster and lath upstairs ( a short hallway and 3 tiny rooms became one big master bedroom) and throwing it out a window, where it slid down the tin roof of a shed into a big pile for my other half to bag up in feed bags in the evening. It was a very stressful time in our lives and that job was so cathartic. We had someone do the gyproc work after because we are, or at least were, no where near ready to tackle that. Years later now and its time to rip out the upstairs hallway and the wall that comes downstairs. We might still get someone to frame and gyproc depending on time but the ripping will begin soon :

    As always, your ability to tell your story so well is a gift for all who read it.

    • Thanks so much Val. Mr. Montana has slowly learned to love the process. It is cathartic. Plus to do something that shows the transformation and actually STAYS done! Now we both kind of crave it. Maybe because we are both introverts. 🙂

  19. Talk about big hairy debt avoidance! Buying a $50K eyesore when you had $200K in the bank? Insanity. But one of the most inspiring stories I ever heard. Thank you, Jillian, for not being normal.

    • Thanks so much! It was a hard call at the time. But that one choice changed everything. The rentals we were able to buy, our investment growth, and being able to leave our jobs. None of that was promised when we plopped down our 50k. But often we just need to make good choice after good choice, and have a bit of faith that if we keep making the good choices, “luck” will step in now and then and open doors we didn’t even see coming.

  20. That’s very impressive. Your willingness to tackle the renovation is admirable. Most people are just too busy with their jobs and don’t want to deal with that kind of extra work. Truthfully, I’m not very good at it either. I’m too afraid of black mold… Great job.

  21. Wow – I love the tenacity and vision that you and Mr. Montana had. This is exactly what I’m looking for when I read – to see people who have identified what’s truly important to them and pursue it with unwavering dedication. Thank you SO much for telling the rest of the story 🙂

    It’s taken us a while longer to figure out what our dreams are, but they are very similar. We’ve got three young kids and are currently downsizing – selling our “nice house” and moving into an apartment, so we can free up the equity in our home, live smaller, and get a jump start on some major life changes.

    Incidentally, you should really check out “The Way I Heard It” podcast by Mike Rowe ( He cites Paul Harvey as his primary inspiration for the format and I’ve found most of the episodes fascinating.

    • Thanks so much Chris! And congrats on the hard choices you are making. I’m sure you have gotten a few strange looks. 😉 But when you know what you REALLY want, the stuff you kinda want starts to seem small. It takes a lot of grit and gumption, but those will pay you back 10 fold.

  22. It’s nice to hear the other half of the story. We had a similar approach to our first house except our timing with the market did not work out as well as yours did. With our second home we only had to do alot of painting. There are sacrifices for financial independence, but they are so minimal in the long run compared to the freedom afforded.

    • I think we can be tempted to just weight the sacrifice instead of the benefit. Part of the reason we waited 10 years was the housing market. We REALLY wanted to buy in 2007, 2008 like went through all the steps and looked at homes. But we were living in the DC area, and houses were SO expensive, we couldn’t even put 20% down. That was a REALLY hard call. To just wait. And hope. That maybe, somehow, we could eventually afford something. I suppose that is a whole other post. =)

  23. The story is great. I have a massive respect for the life choices you have made and the results that you have now.
    You are now free to do what you want. And that is the best.

    On the housing front, I am happy I bought an affordable apartment long time ago and that we bought the house we needed, not the house we could afford. (With our numbers, the loan was approved in the local branch, with no involvement from any higher manager).

    I start now to appreciate better that there are some items I do not buy. Intentionally not buy. I moght have the money, I yet have a higher goal in mind.

    • Yes! There can be a big gap between need and afford. And even the idea of need is rather flexible. We are camping at the beach this week. And staying in our pop-up camper. 22 feet long and about 7 wide. It would be challenging to live in it full time, but apparently it is our baseline for need. Everything over that is technically a want. But last night I walked through the forest to the beach. As I sat reading, watching the sunset, I remembered it was Sunday night. As in, in 10 hours it would be Monday morning. No fear, no dread, just a heart overwhelmed with gratitude.

  24. If there were a photo in the dictionary next to the word “courage” it would be one of you!

    I saw this quote a couple of days ago and I think it captures the spirit of this post:

    “To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.” Theodore H. White

    Thank you for the inspiration that you share through your blog.

    • Ah, thanks so much! I heard someone speak about courage last week, he said that courage generally looks like “being terrified, wanting to throw up and having trouble sleeping all while assuming it should be easier than this. But it looks great on other people.” That sounded about right to be as well. =)

  25. Love it! You’re right, few would pay cash, and fewer still would buy 1/4 their cash stash!

    I kinda followed your path at 26 and bought the cheapest 2/2 around in Pac Heights, SF. But then at age 28 i went crazy and put down everything I had and borrowed $1.2M!!

    I was definitely worried during the housing crisis, but gutted it through. Now I’m selling the house this week bc I’ve had enough.

    Need to simplify! And the SF market here is getting out of control.

    I’m glad I survived! And I’m glad u guys are enjoying your freedom!


    • Hey Sam! Thanks for stopping by. =) I’m glad you made it through the housing crash! That is a big chunk of change to have on the table. The markets are high in our area too, kind makes me wish we could have bought a few more houses cheap so we had a few extra to sell now. =) Sounds like a good time to get out from underneath that house.

  26. Excellent post! I can still hear Paul Harvey’s voice at the mere mention of his name.

    Just curious to know, what do you do for health insurance to keep your costs so low?

    • Mr. Montana retired from the military and we have health insurance with them. My dental is $60 a month for poor coverage (I will cancel at some point). The rest is 80/20 with a $150 per person deductible. We spend about $1000-$3000 a year on average, but we are all also very healthy (at this point!) The cap is $4000 a year out of pocket (excluding dental stuff, which is crazy expensive) so that is also good to know.

  27. You never cease to amaze. 🙂 I too would prefer the ugly ass house. I like getting my hands in the guts of a home and bringing it back to life.

    I remember when my sister was living in Maine and was having a hard time finding work. She had graduated with her teaching degree and would only look at schools to find a job. Her insurance was ending and I told her to go to Starbucks because they offer medical. She scoffed at the thought. “I have a degree” was the response. Yes, she had a degree, but that didn’t make her invincible to the car accident she got in a few months later. Lesson learned.

    Do the work that is available to you. Take the jobs nobody else will. Buy the house nobody wants and make it into a home. I have found that if you zig when everyone else zags you will always have a better view. 😉

    • I heard an actress say that you take the very best work you can get. Whatever that is. And I totally worked for Starbucks. I actually really liked it. I would totally do it again. =) Although there is a local hipster coffee shop I really love and would apply there first. Shoot, I’m there 10 hours a week anyways! Pride and shame are powerful motivators especially if we don’t acknowledge them. Own it, deal with it and move on. =)

  28. I fully understand about DIY renovations. But black mold? And you removed it all yourself? Causing the fungal spores to fly all through the house and into your lungs?

    • Yeah. We sealed off the area (the mold was all in the basement and stairwell) and used high tech air filtering masks. Then vented the air outside with box fans. I felt like a space alien and it was about 100 degrees. But we got it all torn out in 2 days. Then I sprayed mold killer on all the surfaces every month for 6 months before we finished that space. Never had another problem with it. =) The bank had dropped the price an extra $20k because of the mold explosion. Easiest $20k I ever made. =)

  29. I would so love to see pictures of the progression. I’m a sucker for home improvement.

    I so agree on the wants and needs. It’s all about prioritizing and rarely are two people’s exactly the same. Once you are singularly focused on a goal nothing seems to burdensome to achieve it.

    • Thanks so much! =) And welcome! It was a tough call at the time to buy the ugly house. But the outcome and financial freedom it ended up providing have been amazing. =) No regrets.

      • Quick question: did you live in the house while it had black mold (with kids!) or get that taken care of right away? We drastically downsized last year as part of our FIRE/minimalism plan, and accidentally ended up in a bungalow riddled with hidden black mold. I spent over a year sick as a dog – we had to hire for renovations because I was literally going to work everyday with a fever (and, I put on 25 lbs after a year of being sick). We finally found all the sources (all due to shoddy “improvements”, not the original structure), and we now have our dream house $25K later (we paid $100K, and the value is over $170K, so we didn’t lose).

        • No way! We cleared out the mold in two days with masks, box fans and full ventilation. We just took everything down to the studs, sprayed with mold killer and ran dehumidifiers for 6 months before we put the sheetrock back up. We were lucky because there was nowhere it could “hide”, we just tore it all out when we gutted the house.

          • Oh, good for you!!!! We moved into ours, and once I was sick for two months straight in the middle of summer, we realized there had to be mold… somewhere. The somewhere became the problem (and, that we had to live in it for 1.5 years until we’d found it all, with only my body as the guinea pig to let us know when we hadn’t).

          • Hidden mold freaks me out. Partly because it’s hard to find but also hard to figure out what is allowing it to grow. Ours looked really scary but was actually super simple to remove. 100% was exposed and visible. And it was 100% caused by a broken pipe that flooded the basement. After the pipe was fixed we never had moisture problems and no more mold issues.

  30. Awesome. Just awesome. I have a friend who redid the electrical and remodeled a lot of his house. Part of me thinks, “holy cow, I could never do that.” The other part of me is slowly coming around to think, “why not? It could be fun?”

    Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes look into your lives and your big non-negotiable crazy dreams. I love hearing big dreamers talk about what matters. And this matters.

    • Thanks so much! That one choice has opened the door to SO many other great things. I really love where we are right now in life, and a lot of it points back to the one choice to by the really ugly house.