While saving money and eating healthy, you need a Why to help keep you going! Living debt-free and owning our home was one of ours.

As a family of 5, we bought a small townhouse with cash. Here’s why and how we tried to stay debt-free and minimalist!

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Hey friends, we’re going to get a little intimate today.

I want to share a personal story about our family, and I hope it encourages you to do a couple of things:

  1. Recognize that it’s okay to just do what works for you.
  2. Understand that what works for you won’t always (or even usually) work for other people.
  3. Embrace and celebrate the weird decisions that make your family unique and happy.

Okay, when Chris and I were first married (discover how weird we already were here), we were dead broke. We created our first budget while living in a renovated shed in someone’s backyard. It had a pink toilet they had found on the side of the road, and that should tell you everything you need to know about it.

chris and steph's wedding
Look at those children. I’m so glad no one told us we were too young to get married.

Our budget had room for only $25/week for food.

All of it.

This included eating out, but who are we kidding? We weren’t eating out.

Gratefully, our budget didn’t account for the unrealistic amount of optimism and ambition in a 20 and 19-year-old boy and girl who were ready to play adults.

We made it work.

There was a lot of oatmeal for breakfast, rice for dinner, free movies from the library (we watched all of Stargate and Twilight Zone), and even more of the only other free activity for a newlywed couple.

During that season, besides a lot of making out on our little twin bed (on loan from his parents), we challenged each other to do something crazy.

We wanted to pay cash for our first home.

townhouse living room
My kids nicknamed our house “The Poopy house” – because of the state it was in after the previous owners left. “Poopy” is literal, guys. We put a lot of work into it.

Realistically, we didn’t know if we could do it. A lot could happen that was out of our control. But we were committed to living debt-free, and as our family grew, we changed jobs, and we moved out of state to an area with more opportunities, we remembered our challenge.

Chris and I are both really competitive.

The more people told us we were crazy not to buy a house as soon as we could afford a mortgage, the more we wanted to avoid it.

chris and steph

This meant we made a lot of weird decisions.

We cloth diapered our babies.

We lived in a tiny 2-bedroom condo with 3 kids until the drive-by shootings drove us to a safer area of town.

We never decorated a nursery. All of our babies slept in a pack-and-play.

We didn’t get a dog, or any pets (yet!).

My parents bought us our first TV because they were tired of watching movies on a laptop when they visited. It’s still our only TV.

We paid cash for our cars, and we packed lunches and made dinner at home.

Honestly, we would have made a lot of these decisions even we had gotten to get a mortgage.

But having a big, crazy goal certainly made these choices easier.

townhouse dining room
My favorite room in the house – with Amazon curtains and all the natural lighting.

Family of 5 in a 2-Bedroom Townhouse

When it finally came to buying a house, we made another weird decision.

We live in an area of the world where many families at our stage of life, with jobs like us, and 3 kids who aren’t little anymore, have fairly large houses. We’re talking 3-4 bedrooms with a garage and a yard and a dog.

Chris and I have lived and traveled abroad, so we know that many people around the world – in both developed countries and third world countries – live in much smaller spaces. So while we would love a bigger house someday, we knew we could live comfortably in much less space.

This townhouse is great.

It’s not perfect. The kids all share a bedroom, and they alternate who sleeps in a bed and who sleeps on the floor, because their tiny bedroom won’t fit another bed.

That’s embarrassing for me to admit, but before you feel bad for them, the fact is these kids would RATHER sleep on the floor than in their bed (I don’t understand either). Many nights, no one is sleeping in a bed and they’re all on the floor.

So I guess Chris and I aren’t the only weird ones.

It’s okay to just do what works for you and your family – even if it isn’t the normal thing where you live.

townhouse kitchen
Fact: You don’t need a white kitchen to be happy!
White kitchens are fun, but not needing to clean the cupboards constantly is also fun.

We Bought Our First Home with Cash

Because we paid cash for our house, we had a very concrete budget. We bought a small townhouse because that was what we could afford. It got us out of paying rent every month. It freed up our income so that we could replace our 20-year-old family vehicle and I got to buy my first pair of Adidas sneakers (literally a #lifegoal for this girl who grew up on hand me downs.) (Don’t judge. Just laugh).

We knew this home was probably temporary. And we love it for what it is – a safe, cozy, space for our family to call our own while we work towards the next thing.

townhouse kitchen
I painted one wall in the hallway with chalkboard paint.

Why Pay Cash for a Home?

Listen, I know this choice doesn’t make sense for a lot of people.

I know we could have bought a home with a small mortgage that would fit our family better and we could just put all that rent money into paying off the mortgage early.

This method is brilliant, and I love it when I hear people paid their house off early.

But this is what worked for us. Chris and I are very competitive, and paying cash for our first home was a goal we worked together to crush.

It wasn’t always fun. We reevaluated our goals every few years, just make sure that this was something we both wanted to do. Just to make sure we both thought it was the right thing for us.

townhouse tour pin

And we know that it doesn’t work for most other people. It’s not something that we tell other people they should do in order to live a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.

Paying cash for our home brought us a lot of joy. It was empowering and brought us even closer as a family. In fact, the first 20 times I drove to this house, I cried. I couldn’t believe we had actually done it.

But that doesn’t mean I think everyone should do it. While doing what works for us, we understand that it won’t always (or even usually) work for other people.

townhouse hallway
To combat 3 boys living in a small space, Chris and I built this rock wall going up the stairs.

Raising 3 Kids in a Small Townhouse

When we first bought our townhouse, it was a nightmare. My kids nicknamed it “The Poopy House” because the previous owners had several animals that did their business everywhere in this carpeted house and it was never cleaned up.

Opening the door, a wall of fermented stench hit us that I never want to smell again.

Which meant the townhouse was the right price, absolutely no one wanted to buy it, and we got to make it our own.

Turns out that once you roll away the carpet, apply a thick layer of odor-and-mildew-killing paint, lay down some flooring, and paint every single wall, you have a brand new house.

We love this home. Our boys love this townhouse, and they don’t call it The Poopy House anymore.

We make sure our kids have their own little spaces, we find unique ways to respect their privacy and give them alone time as they get older and need a little more space. They made friends in the neighborhood and spend a lot of time running and biking outside.

Because we have three wild, amazing boys who have a lot of energy, Chris and I installed a rock wall up our stairs and a grip strength pull up bar in their closet door. We take a lot of walks, and the kids ride their bikes on nice days.

We’re also a family who loves video games and Chris is more an indoorsy guy. So as long as we have internet, we’re pretty happy.


Minimalist Home Tour

We were minimalists before it was trendy. Back when we were living in the backyard shed, we had about 350 square feet of living space.

I don’t know that you could call us true minimalists.

There were no succulents or scandinavian decor.

Just two broke kids who couldn’t afford to buy anything.

As our family grew and we found careers we loved, we still kept our belongings minimal. First, becasue we always lived in small spaces. Second, we love the freedom that it gives us. We don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning or organizing. Our townhouse stays pretty tidy and is very easy to clean, but it feels cozy and comfortable to us.

Being minimalist helped us save a ton of money when we purchased our home. Because we owned very little, we knew we could comfortably fit our family in a smaller house. We did not have to pay for extra rooms or storage space for our stuff.

This doesn’t work for everyone. But owning just a few things we love and being able to fit in smaller spaces brings us a lot of joy.

Embrace and celebrate the weird decisions that make your family unique and happy.

chris and steph's family

Debt-Free Living

I want to encourage you to save money and eat healthy. And in order to do that, you need to know your Why. Your Why is that big, slightly-scary goal that gets you excited and keeps you focused.

I shared one of our big Whys here, when we were finally able to take our kids overseas to meet Chris’ family.

Our other big Why was that we wanted to live debt-free – free from debt, monthly payments, the risk of foreclosure, or of bankruptcy.

In order to do that, we had to live far below our means – even when we were making very little money. Saving money and eating healthy helped us do that. We didn’t feel like we had to choose between our health and wellness and our finances.

In this post I wanted to share a personal story about our family and encourage you to do a couple of things:

  1. Recognize that it’s okay to just do what works for you.
  2. Understand that what works for you won’t always (or even usually) work for other people.
  3. Embrace and celebrate the weird decisions that make your family unique and happy.

We made a lot of weird decisions. I know they don’t work for other people and that’s okay! They work for us, and that’s what matters.

I bet you have some ideas about what works for you. I bet you can make some weird decisions that bring you closer to your goals – but won’t work for other people. Embrace your family’s unique season and unique personality.

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What You Can Do Now:

What’s your Why?

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