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Why I DIY: my path to financial independence

July 8, 2014

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Capital One 360.

Working toward financial independence by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. #my360independence #ad

I'm going a bit off topic today to discuss something that is important to me–financial independence.  I'll be back to DIY and crafty goodness soon, I promise.

As you all know, the focus of my blog is THRIFTY projects.  Whether we are working on a major DIY renovation or a simple craft, we always strive to complete our projects as economically as possible.  But why?  That is a question I have received more often than you would suspect.  I think a lot of people think it's weird that for people that make a comfortable living {which we are very fortunate to do} to scrimp and save as much as we do.  So, today, I am going to explain it to those of you that are curious.

First of all, it must be said that I L.O.V.E. DIY projects and crafts more than you could ever possibly understand.  But, we also scrimp and save and DIY because we want to achieve financial independence as soon as possible.  I am proud to say that we have never had credit card debt {unless you can count when we were first married and purchased a washer and dryer on a credit card with 0% interest–we paid it off before the 6 months was up}.  Our view is that if we can't pay cash for something, we don't need it.

Let me pause here and say that I pray you don't think I am bragging or boasting throughout this post–I promise that is NOT what I am trying to do.  I know that not everyone can pay cash for what they need.  I know that not everyone has an ability to put money in savings or a retirement account.  Our ability to do both is a blessing and a luxury that not everyone has AND I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL for that.  I absolutely know there are incredibly hard working people in the world that scrimp and save and still have to live paycheck to paycheck.  I know there are millions of people who have been laid off and can't find work.  I know there are people who MUST use credit cards to feed their families.   You will never know how tremendously I respect those people and how much I wish their circumstances were different.  Life is difficult for many and is isn't always fair, that's for sure.  I am thankful beyond words for how much God has blessed us.

But I also know many, many people that live at or above their means by choice and we try very hard not to do that.  Instead, we save as much as we can and pay down debts early.

Now, a bit of background.  Joe and I were both raised by parents of modest means.  We don't have trust funds and we didn't have college funds waiting for us.  We both started working when we were 15 and have worked, at least one job at a time ever since, even when we were in school {except for my first semester of law school when certain rules prohibit working}.

When we were first married, just a few days after I finished law school, we both had student loan debt, we both had car payments and we had rent, plus all of our other bills.  Before we had been married for a year, we purchased our first house.  People were pushing us to buy a bigger house, saying “you can afford it.”  It was true, we could afford it, but we chose to spend less so we could pay off other debt.  Every time we paid off a debt, we pretended that we did not have that “extra” money and made extra payments toward other debts to pay them down faster.

I am so glad we did.  Now, 12 years later, we have no car payments, we paid off Joe's student loans years early and we make double payments on mine every month so that we can pay them off as soon as possible.  Presently, our only consumer debts are our mortgage and the remainder of my student loans.  We also save responsibly for retirement.  We do all of this so that we can achieve FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE as soon as possible.  To us, financial independence means being debt free and actively saving for the future.

Working towards financial independence requires delayed gratification on our part.  Every time I go into Target or West Elm, I see a million things that I love and want to buy.  I would love new bedroom furniture.  I would love to update our terribly outdated bathrooms NOW.

Working toward financial independence by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. #my360independence #ad

I would love to rip out that BROWN tile now, but I am being patient and saving $$$ instead.

I want a lot of things, just like most people.  We could pay someone to renovate our entire house and have it done in 6 months.  But, instead, we try to make smart purchases and use our spare time to complete DIY renovations so that we can work toward the house of our dreams AND achieve financial independence at the same time.

I could give you a ton of examples of how we have implemented these principles in our lives, but you would be bored to tears, so I'll stick to just a few examples.  We saved thousands of dollars by figuring out a way to create the concrete fireplace of our dreams on our own.

DIY Concrete Fireplace tutorial using Ardex Feather Finish by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {designertrapped.com}

And I totally transformed our laundry room for only $71 for going shopping in my own house and using paint/materials that were leftover from other projects.

Thrifty laundry room renovation with painted vinyl floors by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {designertrapped.com}

Most recently, we transformed our outdated kitchen for $700 by coming up with creative solutions, like painting the tile backsplash and the floor.  We could have ripped out the whole kitchen and replaced everything, but for now, our money is better spent in other ways, like paying off my student loans.  And you know what?  We love it and don't at all regret our decision to improve upon what we already had instead of spending a fortune on an extensive renovation.

WOW! Budget kitchen remodel by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. Totally transformed with PAINT! #kitchenremodel

We also save in smaller ways.  Recently we were on vacation with our girls in Blowing Rock, NC.  {Again, I know how lucky we are to be able to take vacations}.  We did splurge a little and rented a beautiful home for the week.  We also took the girls bowling and to a movie, which we consider splurges.  But, we only ate out twice the entire week {both were inexpensive meals}; we cooked the rest of our meals at home, which saved us a ton of money.  And when we took the girls to Tweetsie Railroad, which was also a BIG splurge for us, we did not spend a fortune to eat in the park.  We marched out to Joe's truck and ate the lunch we had packed for ourselves; when we finished, we went right back into the park to finish our fun day.  Saving on the small things enables us to splurge on fun things like vacation.

Tips for working toward financial independence by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

Working toward financial independence by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. #my360independence #ad

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Working toward financial independence by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. #my360independence #ad

So tell me, how important is financial independence to you?  What are your best tips for achieving financial independence?  What creative ways to save have you come up with?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Capital One 360.

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  1. Sue J says:

    Hi Tasha. Thanks for sharing your story. I am proud to say that apart from our mortgage, Beloved and I are also debt-free. We do have a credit card – two, in fact – but both are paid off in full every month. It wasn’t always this way. We have known massive debt, but we’ve worked very hard for ten years to clear every penny. We are very fortunate that Beloved has a good wage and my business does ‘ok’, but our household income has nevertheless taken a real battering since the recession. When we bought OneandSeventy last August, I was desperate to make changes, but the cost of professionals was prohibitive. Electing to do as much of the work as I could myself resulted in The World of Suzy Homemaker – a new venture that I am totally loving and which has opened up a whole new life of blogging, crafting, decorating and thrifting that I never imagined possible. There is still much do to, but life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade and boy… does it taste good! Sorry to ramble on… your post really spoke to me

    • Tasha A. says:

      Good for you, Sue! It’s hard work and requires sacrifice, but it is well worth it. And a huge congrats to you on The World of Suzy Homemaker! Isn’t it funny how life works out?!

  2. rea says:

    hi tasha,
    this post is really inspiring and i respect you and your husband’s determination and motivation to keep it cash…in the meantime, my husband and I are still in the process of eliminating credit card debts and trying so hard to keep doing it until all debts are eliminated..it is very challenging but see i have been reading your blog and the reason why i like it (aside from your style) is that you always go for inexpensive, thrifty, frugal, diy projects that i cannot even think about doing until i see it here on your blog, for example, you painted your tile backsplash instead of replacing it with new ones and painted then stenciled your bamboo floors instead of replacing it with spankin’ brand new hardwood floors which you would probably would love!
    i am an avid reader and i learn a lot from you and i am truly inspired from you and your blog♥

    huggies,
    rea

  3. Great post, Tasha! Love getting a sneak peek behind the scenes into why you make the choices you make to remodel, DIY etc. We try to live similarly. Like you, we have an AmEx we use to earn perks. We have a Visa too, but we pay them both off every month. We watch where every dollar goes closely and save to buy the things we want and need, so our only debt is our mortgage. We scheme about ways to pay that off early, but we debate about whether early payoff is worthwhile or if we should just ride it out given the loan’s low interest rate and the income tax credit for the interest.

    • Tasha A. says:

      Thanks so much, Carrie! We have the same debate as you when in comes to the mortgage! Not sure where we will come down on that one…

  4. Mandy says:

    I love this post and had seen your posts on Twitter but didn’t get a chance to read this until now. I live paycheck to paycheck and I hate it….I have a stupid loan that I stupidly topped up down through the years for silly things and now have to pay it back, I have another 3 1/2 years left on that. I always say that I would be happy if I had my wage all to myself!!! I’m definitely working towards financial independence….

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Mandy! So great to hear from you again! Hang in there. Just imagine how great you will feel when that loan is paid off :) You can do it!

  5. You sound a lot like us. I hate debt and am dragging my feet on a bathroom remodel even though we have plenty saved up for it. We always packed a lunch for theme parks as kids too. It was fun going back to the car and having a picnic anyway.

    • Tasha A. says:

      Glad we are not the only ones, Cara! It was kind of nice to have a car picnic. And I would much rather eat greek yogurt than gross theme park food :)

  6. Leslie says:

    Wow! What a great and inspirational post. I Love the concrete job you did! That is amazing! Good luck in your debt saving, I’m trying to do the same thing.

  7. My husband and I are just like you guys. We use cash for everything. We have credit cards, but up until recently they were just collecting dust. I only got a new one and started using it to earn flight miles. But we pay it off every month. My husband puts the max amount of money into his deferred compensation plan at work each paycheck and we DIY everything as well. Partly because we can’t afford to deck out our house in Pottery Barn furniture, but partly because we love the satisfaction of making it ourselves.

    • Tasha A. says:

      That’s awesome, Katie! I think the four of us would get along very well! We love making stuff ourselves as well and the $$$ savings is a huge bonus. We do use an AmEx to earn cash back, but like you, we pay it off every month. Congrats to you and your hubby for being so responsible. I am hoping it rubs off on our girls :)

  8. colette says:

    I completely agree with everything you said. I refuse to pay interest on something, when I could easily put off buying it, and save enough money to pay cash. Like you, the only debt we have is our mortgage… and even that I regret buying the expensive house that we did.

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Colette! Thanks for taking the time to comment. So glad to know there are so many other people out with similar financial habits!

  9. Kathryn says:

    Tasha, I can so relate to you wanting financial independence. That is how we lived our life as well. Doing things ourselves rather then hiring help. When I was fortunate to be able to be home full time with my boys, we had one car for Paul to go to work. I walked to do errands or we did other things when Paul was home. Many of our friends went out to dinner, movies etc. and we stayed home. Don’t get me wrong, we so enjoyed being home and playing with our boys. You and Joe are on the right track and will always be successful.

  10. I’m with you… DIY’ing projects myself is so much fun and so is the peace of knowing we are saving money by completing things ourselves. Great post!
    ~ Ashley

  11. Stacy says:

    We are working on our consumer debt too. I have student loans from my master’s and my husband has a large credit card bill (read OMG!) We began two months ago and were able to pay off some smaller bills the first month. I have basically earmarked a certain amount per month for debt reduction which puts us on a fairly tight budget. It’s tough paying for the sins of the past and is no fun at all! Much easier to do it on the front end and never spend it in the first place. Good job!

    Stacy

    • Tasha A. says:

      That is awesome, Stacy! Doesn’t it feel amazing to start paying stuff off? Good luck to you–sounds like you are off to a great start! And thanks so much for sharing my BOLD dresser tutorial!

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