I had an interesting conversation with my dad the other day, and I mentioned some of the best decisions I’ve ever made, ones that have paid forward and paid forward and make my life better today, so here’s some musings on that. Warning: It’s a long one.
Reading the Dave Ramsey book my best friend gave me.
In ~2011, my best friend attended a set of Financial Peace University meetings from Dave Ramsey, and as a result, she gifted me a copy of ‘The Total Money Makeover‘. (Not an affiliate link.)
I’d always managed to keep from going belly-up financially, but I didn’t have good habits, I had debt, and I didn’t really understand what I was doing wrong. I always split out reoccurring bills into monthly sections I set aside, so that was saving my bacon on the big bills, but month by month I wasn’t managing to do more the squeak by, and my debt kept growing.
Cue this book gift, which I initially set aside as a ‘yeah, yeah’ thing. But she was insistent, especially since I had a large chunk of income coming in SSDI back pay. So I read it.
And it made a WORLD of difference in my spending. When that payment came in, I cleared all of my credit cards, all of my debts that I could manage (except Student Loans and amounts owed to family), and I took $3000 and set it aside as an emergency fund. Then, I expanded my finance knowledge, continued improving at managing my money, and brought my husband in on it when I met him. He was naturally frugal, and I was not, but with what I learned, we both improved.
I’ve been using You Need a Budget online to manage my spending, and that was what finally changed us from barely managing, to careful spending and paying down on the debts that are left. This website is INDISPENSIBLE for me. Yes, there’s a very small monthly fee, but being able to break down my budget and track spending actively as well as access my budget anywhere? MAGIC.
So, yeah. Reading that book changed my life.
Going on a First Date with My Now Husband
I met my husband through the free dating website, OKCupid, and I almost didn’t talk to my husband. He had posted a high school photo of himself, and he looked really young, so I initially kept looking. But then I thought about the guy who had helped me with my sad initial profile, despite not being interested. So I went back and sent him a message, basically encouraging him to keep trying.
No one else contacted him or responded to his messages.
He wrote back, and I felt that, because I had spoken to him first, I was obliged to keep on talking with him. Thus, we spent months talking on line, web camming, and finally meeting in person.
He turned out to be AMAZING and exactly who and what I needed in a partner. If I hadn’t taken a moment to cheer him on, I never would have met him which is terrifying. One of the best decisions of my life.
Applying for USDA Rural Development and Buying a House
One of my mom’s friends managed to buy a house when entirely broke and in a women’s shelter. No joke.
So, when I was wailing about living instability and my fear of being homeless, my mom told me to call her. I didn’t want to – she and I don’t get along, but I eventually swallowed my pride and called. She was sweet about it and helpful, and I called our Dodgeville USDA Rural Development office not even five minutes after ending that call on October 5th, 2012.
My paperwork was turned in by the following Friday.
Suddenly, my boyfriend (now husband) and I had a realtor, and we were looking at houses. That realtor knew the owner of our house, and walked over to his house and knocked on the door so we could have a tour.
It was a whirlwind. We were approved for $135,000.
We made an offer of $49,000 for the house and stipulated he would pay closing costs. It’s a very small house, and it’s very much I-did-it-myself, but we liked it.
Christmas week, the owner accepted our offer.
We scheduled and paid for an inspection and worked with Community Block Grant, turned in their paperwork. We signed up for housing insurance, prepaying for the year.
March 1st, 2013, we signed the closing papers.
WE WERE HOMEOWNERS. It took less than 5 months.
It’s made a WORLD of difference. Our mortgage with escrow?
$340 a month.
You are NOT reading that number wrong, and I didn’t mistype it. $340. We were able to live on less income, my disability income and $1000 gross a month from my husband because that number is so ridiculously small. Seriously, renting starts at ~$900 for a one bedroom at BEST out here. In Madison, it’s much higher.
This has allowed us to have stability, to relax, and as our income increased pay down debts and add insurance and… it goes on and on. One of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
We signed for our house March 1st, 2013, and I immediately started looking for a dog, mostly on Craigslist. After only a few weeks, my sister-in-law found Tundra’s post on Dubuque’s Craiglist. We were instantly enamored with him!
I called his owner, Tasha, and she grilled me for ~45 minutes on taking care of malamutes, their temperament, their training, discipline, all of it. My family has had malamutes for years, so I was familiar with what we were getting into.
We set up an appointment to meet him on April 7th, 2013, and we drove FOREVER into Minnesota for him.
He was jumpy and jumped all over us, but he was also very sweet and a gorgeous dog. Jumping we could deal with, so we talked back and forth for a while. He had been seized from a wolf-dog breeder as a puppy, and she had adopted him. She didn’t know whether he was a wolf-dog or not but suspected he had at least some blood. She socialized him extensively and loved him SO much.
But, her sister was ill and it took all of the family’s income to help her, and they couldn’t afford dog food anymore. Plus, the snot had started pushing boundaries while his mom was at work on night shift. It was a bad situation for them.
We took him, and he stared out the back window at her, and she was bawling. I felt like THE WORST person ever.
He was subdued and skittish once we got home, and he clearly missed her. He whined and stood at the windows.
The first night he was so upset, we invited him into bed to cuddle, which was probably a mistake because he is a bed puppy now.
He’s SO sweet, and we love him. We can’t have kids, and he’s our fur-baby and much loved on. Giving him a chance was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Looking back at your life, what are the best decisions you’ve ever made? A lot of people talk about their worst decisions, but no one talks about good ones! Enquiring minds want to know!