If our monthly debt repayment progress reports have left you feeling discouraged or frustrated, this post is for you.
By far the majority of my readers are truly supportive and completely encouraging. Not only do you leave words of encouragement for me, I often receive kind messages from you sharing that you are encouraged by me. I love hearing from readers who have been inspired to be a little more frugal, improve their financial situation and tackle their debt because of what they read on Six Figures Under.
Still, there are some readers and occasional visitors who aren’t encouraging or encouraged. Every once in a while someone sounds pretty discouraged.
Looking at our budget just for the numbers, some find it frustrating that we don’t have a rent or mortgage payment and pay a mere $70 per month in utility costs.
Of course you are able to make huge progress on your debt! If I lived for free I would too, but I don’t have that option!
If your big take-away from our monthly debt repayment progress reports is just that we don’t pay rent, then you’re missing the boat.
It’s not my intention to make you frustrated and feel jealous.
I want to inspire you to make the best out of whatever situation you are in.
I want to help you think creatively about what you can do to improve your finances by being more frugal and smarter with your money, or increasing your income so you can start making a bigger dent in your financial goals.
Seeing the Forest For the Trees
It would be easy to get jealous of our housing cost savings if you were just looking at the “no rent” tree, and not seeing the forest of frugality and sacrifice around it. Looking at the bigger picture, you might not be as envious.
I am a pretty positive person in real life, so I avoid dwelling on the negative. Sure, I could write a blog on the frustrating aspects of our life. I could share all the aggravating details about our living arrangement, but no one wants to go online to read a blog of complaints. And writing them would probably turn me into a grump.
If you’ve been around here for a while, then you’ve probably gleaned some details of our place, like the cement floors and walls (which is why we have cold feet and nothing hanging on the walls), exactly zero closets (yep, everything is out in the open), and boxes of storage stacked to the ceiling (some ours, some my in-laws). We have a step-up bathroom (gotta love basement plumbing), so my tall husband can’t even stand up straight in the shower. We also routinely find snakes, lizards, and frogs in our living room (maybe a perk for the little boys).
Have you noticed that I never post indoor pictures besides the lovely yellow kitchen countertop that is much older than I am (when someone was remodeling 30 years ago, my in-laws took their old cupboards, sink and countertop and stored them in the basement for a few decades until we moved in and installed them)? Yeah, not exactly Pinterest or Instagram material.
We choose to look for the good in our situation. We have so much to be thankful for, so we focus on that.
Don’t Do What I Do
While I like to share tutorials (like canning applesauce or making pie crust in bulk) and practical ideas (like how to get kids clothes free or cheap or how to save money on road trips), I don’t expect you to do exactly what I do.
Everything that works for me won’t work for you.
For example, I am totally cool with rinsing out poopy diapers and doing two extra laundry loads a week that I hang dry and fold. I know cloth diapers aren’t for everyone, so if you want to buy disposable diapers instead, that’s cool. We can still be friends.
We don’t own a TV. We don’t even have a video streaming subscription. We generally have an entertainment budget of $0 for our family. We don’t go to the movies, out to dinner, to amusement parks, or other activities that cost money. That works for us, but it might not fly in your family.
On the spending side, I’ve already addressed the controversial topic of paying ten percent of our income in tithing. We realize that ten percent is a huge chunk of money that would help pay our debt off faster, but it is spending that we are not willing to give up. That might not be your thing, but it works for us.
While not everyone has the opportunity to live with family for free, many wouldn’t be willing to take it even if they did (which is toootally understandable). It requires a serious dose of humility to go from being a homeowner to living in your parent’s basement.
I also have to mention that cutting out the cost of housing doesn’t guarantee that the savings would go toward paying off debt (or whatever else your financial goal is). The thousand dollars we save in rent could easily be spent on food, clothes, or entertainment if we weren’t super dedicated to our goal of paying off debt asap. I’ve said before that living in my in-laws’ basement is the biggest contributor to our debt repayment, but that’s only because it has motivated us to buckle down and pay off our loans asap.
Don’t Do What Works FOR ME, Do What Works FOR YOU!
I share lots of different ideas for frugal living, cooking from scratch, budgeting, and earning money so that you can choose what works for you. I love hearing your ideas and suggestions in the comments too. There is so much we can learn from one another.
Let’s not compare. Our journeys are different and we never know the whole story. Teddy Roosevelt had it right. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
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I loved this article so many people could not handle living with family. It’s extremely hard! We been doing it for 4yrs so i feel your pain. Keep up the good work!
You have been an inspiration to me. I can’t wait until you get this college debt paid off, so we can get on to your journey of buying a house. The sacrifices you are making to achieve your goal is amazing. What a great example you are making for your children. You all should be very proud of yourselves.
This is one of the best personal finance blog posts I have ever read. The end.
Thank you Cath! That made me smile! 🙂
Thanks for being open and honest. As someone who is renting a two bedroom place for a family of five, I do realize how sacrifices are made at times. When we moved “back home”. we also had to live with my parents 2 months until we found this place. It is too small but the rent is really low for our area so we are actually saving money until we find a place to buy of our own. We have been making it work for about a year now. I love reading how you are making things work for your family! Yes, it is very different from our situation but it is still encouraging!
Thanks for sharing Jennifer! That is awesome that you are making the small place work do that you can save up to buy a place for yourself. It will be worth the sacrifice! 🙂
I have just recently started researching being debt free and living on 50% of our income to pay off our debts. However I don’t know where to start. I have the student loan debt where as my husband does not. I am overwhelmed by the 65k number that I keep seeing. What are some tools and resources I can use to visually see this? I feel like I am swimming but at the same time I am determined to be debt free.
Carolyn @ Raspberries in the Rough says
I love your blog! I find encouragement and great ideas here. I have to admit that one thing that has really hindered me in blogging though is that I don’t want readers to get the false impression that I have everything together, or am a total know-it-all, or something…but at the same time, I want to provide things that are positive and valuable, not negative or useless. If that makes any sense. Maybe I’m a chicken and fear negative comments…but I worry about the kind of impact I might have on my readers, especially since most don’t leave comments at all.
Anyway, I’ve gleaned some really awesome things from your blog that I use all the time, like YNAB and homemade yogurt. I always enjoy reading your posts 🙂
I totally know what you mean Carolyn! It seems like there can be a fine line between saying it like it is and complaining (or saying it like it is and bragging/being a know-it-all). 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I always appreciate your comments.
My husband and I are living in my parents’ basement as well, and although we are fortunate enough to live in a finished basement, we feel your pain. Your blog has been a great encouragement and we have followed it for some time. I have even recommended it to some recent graduate friends of mine who are facing student loans. I have to tell you, making those extra payments on student loans each month is more satisfying than any shopping spree I could imagine!
Making extra payments is a great and satisfying reward that is well worth the sacrifice!
I’m sorry that some people feel that being passive-aggressive towards you is an appropriate response to your blog.
I think you’re awesome, and although I couldn’t handle doing some of the things you’re doing, you’ve given me many other great ideas that I *am* implementing….and by New Year’s Eve of this year, I will have paid off 1/3 of my massive student loan debt in my first 11 months of repayment! (I actually find your monthly updates to be helpful because I’ve made my repayment into a sort of “game” where I am trying to catch up to your “Debt Remaining” total, haha). Carry on!
Congrats on being so close to a great milestone! That’s sounds like a fun game! 🙂
Jen @ Frugal Millennial says
“While not everyone has the opportunity to live with family for free, many wouldn’t be willing to take it even if they did (which is toootally understandable).” Perfectly said and I could not agree more! My husband and I are fortunate that my parents allow us to live with them so we can pay off our debt in three years, but many people wouldn’t make this choice even if they had the ability to do so. Which, like you said, is totally understandable. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but it’s certainly not easy! There are many things about our living situation that are challenging.
Welcome to the club Jen! 🙂 It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you can make it work, it’s totally worth it!
As an overseas reader I can’t really relate to half of the things you write about, but I love reading it! I learn so much about your culture by reading your blog. And just like one of the other commenters above I don’t really need to be frugal, but you really inspire me to try to be more conscious of how we spend our money. So thank you for sharing your interesting life choices. And I bet someday you will have beautiful countertops and walls, of your own choice and you’ll appreciate them a lot more than people who’ve always had everything they wanted. Lots of love!
Thanks for reading and for your kind words Sjoukje! You’re so right about being more appreciative!! I will never take a closet for granted again! 🙂
I just commented today on FB about why do people put ugly comments on other people’s posts. If you don’t like something move on. I am a Grandma & I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I don’t use diapers & I don’t have small kids at home. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn something & appreciate your blog. I think it’s wonderful you are able to live with your in laws. It will be priceless to your children especially when they are grown. I have the room & my daughter & her husband plus 3 very respectful teen Grandkids are moving in next year. We can hardly wait. We lived together 7 years ago & we all really miss it. I know people don’t always agree but we love our daughter & our son in law has been like our son for over 25 years. this doesn’t work for everyone but it does for us. Just because others may not get along with family doesn’t mean everyone is that way. We are blessed.
That is refreshing to hear that you have such a great relationship with your daughter and son-in-law. I grew up two thousand miles away from any grandparents, so I think it’s really special that my kids know their grandparents so well. They always tell us they like having us here too. Thanks for sharing Chari.
When people are feeling desperate or frustrated, they sometimes lash out. It’s about the place they are in their lives and NOT about you. Forgive them and move on! You inspire me every day.
Oh I don’t harbor any bad or hurt feelings. I just figured that if she was feeling that way, then there are probably others that feel that way too. It’s always good to have a reminder that we each have our own journey and we shouldn’t compare our blessings or trials with anyone else’s blessings or trials.
Honey, I feel like I just need to say that I love you! 🙂 🙂 I know we all have to hear about 7 good things to be able to take one negative thing in stride… looks like Jenni beat me to being number 7, but you should know that I am so glad I found your blog (I think through Pinterest). And our situation is not the same as yours. Sometimes I feel like people think I’m crazy because I try to be so frugal when we don’t NEED to be – we only owe money on our home – but I would love to get that paid off and get our retirement finances where they should be. And you ARE inspiring! I have learned so much and been able to be more disciplined in our spending, but also in bringing in extra cash. Your encouragement to doing ‘side hustles’ has opened up opportunities for me that I would have said ‘no’ to earlier. And it’s so fun!! We also thankfully give 10% of our income to the Lord’s work. Overall, I thank Him for so many undeserved blessings in our life and you are one of them. Please be encouraged – I really believe you are changing lives!
You are sweet Heidi! I definitely get way more than a 7-to-1 ratio of positive to negative. I just like to address the negative ones sometimes because I figure for every comment that is voiced, there are many others that aren’t voiced. Thanks for counting me as one of your blessings. 🙂
And way to be frugal when you don’t *need* to be! That’s how millionaires stay millionaires.
Awe, that comment sounded like a person that was really down. It is easy to get discouraged when looking at blogs and Pinterest where everyone seems to have it all together. I think we all have to come up with a plan that works best for our unique situations while keeping in mind how valuable it is to learn from others. For instance, I can’t make applesauce like I see here because I don’t have the same cool equipment but I can make applesauce in my crock pot in a similar way which then led me to learn how to make some of the best apple butter my family has ever had! I think where the problem comes in is comparing ourselves to others making the grass appear greener. I love your blog and even though I have my own great ideas and plans I continue to use your site to add to them, thanks Stephanie!
You are so right Jennifer! Pick out what works for you, adapt what you can, and drop what doesn’t work for you. It is easy to get discouraged. It seems like sometimes all we see is everyone else’s best and compare it with our worst.
[email protected] says
I think comparison is something a lot of women struggle with, including myself. But the thing I have noticed about your situation is that while you don’t have rent to pay, your gas and parking bills are huge compared to ours. I also noticed this about the cost of your husband’s advertising for his law practice. In fact, I added up all of your expenses and compared them to mine (yes, I am nerdy like that, and a bit too curious at times :)) and realized that your total expenses were almost the same as ours, we just had different categories that were higher or lower.
The big difference is your total income – I think it is no small thing that you have worked hard to generate a side income for your family (and your husband is too) and this helps you gain more traction on paying off your loans. I myself struggle in this area – we feel the pressure of paying off our loans, but I often don’t know where to start in earning side money when I am homeschooling/running a house/etc. But I am trying and setting aside some time in the evenings when my husband can help with the kids to work on some writing ideas and sewing. I am looking forward to the Etsy book you are working on as that is something I am interested in too.
Keep doing what you are doing – you are definitely an inspiration to me an a reminder of what can happen when you commit to a big goal!
By the way, have you ever heard of the book “Love the Home You Have”? I have it on hold at the library and it’s all about noticing what you do have in your home no matter what kind of home you are in. I would love to hear more sometime about what it’s like (a typical day) in your situation living in an unfinished basement.
Comparison is a struggle. Sometimes it can be helpful when you can analyze a situation and learn from it. We just have to be careful not to cross over into envy because then that’s an unproductive energy suck. That is really interesting that our spending amounts are so similar, just allocated differently! I can’t imagine homeschooling on top of everything else! That’s awesome!
I haven’t heard of that book! It sounds like a good one though– I bet it would inspire me to “embrace the basement.” 🙂
AMEN!!! I can’t stand when people say things like this! “Well it’s easier for you because x, y, and z.” It’s just another excuse. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I have no problem eating rice and beans and the same thing for lunch and dinner 3 days in a row. That’s what works for me and it saves me a lot of time and a ton of money. It seems like most people cook every single meal, and sometimes take leftovers for lunch.You need to do what works for you! Living well below my means anyway I can and paying off my debt is what is working for me!
Way to be the queen of rice and beans Tracie! 🙂
Sarah @ little bus on the prairie says
Love this! Commentors have frequently expressed envy at the fact that we were gifted a large chunk of the funds to purchase the land we’re building on, but they don’t usually want to live in a bus with four kids to get it done! Each situation has it’s own downsides and “unfair advantages”!
I don’t know many people who could rock the whole living in a bus thing like you guys have! I’m happy that you’ll be in a house soon!! 🙂
Great point! If you try to live someone else’s life, you can’t enjoy your own. 😀
So true Carrie!
I want to thank you for all of the information you give on your blog! I think it’s great. It does encourage me to think more creatively – outside the box. I applaud your success! It’s not easy to do with just yourself – let alone a beautiful family. With each year, situations change. Kids grow, jobs are altered – so you continually have to change your plan. Be flexible. I am at the point that all 3 of my babies…..are off to college. So, I am changing plans again!
Thanks for all you share. 🙂
Thanks for the kind words Joanne! 🙂
Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income says
I find that trying to live someone else’s life always ends in failure. Everyone has to find their own plan and way in life. No two financial situations are identical. If there was one magic way to get it done then we would all be doing it and the person who came up with that idea would be making a fortune selling their book. What works today may not be what is best for your family next year. As long as everyone is open and honest and doing their best then that is great. If you have so much time to be worrying about everyone else and what they are doing, then you probably have some extra time on your hands to do something more productive in life as well.
Paying off debt is hard and it takes encouragement and support from family and community to keep going on the hard days. Beyond the pay off motivation, I’m sure it’s also nice to have such a visible manifestation of support from your in-laws.
I had to laugh at the mean comment you posted where they were expressing envy over your housing. I have never once been envious of your path. You have a hard road and seeing your debt makes me happy in my own (no offense meant here, I’m sure many people would look at our debt load when we started and scream from fear). However, it seems like you’re happy in your choices and that’s what makes this blog fun to read. Your positive voice on a topic that can be so overwhelmingly negative brings a lightness to it that I have often needed on this journey.
Thanks Judi! We are happy about our choices generally. As a side note, I think you hit on why serving others is a great solution for feeling down in the dumps– when you see other people’s problems, you are happy to have your own! 🙂