We bought a house.

Something big quietly happened in our household last week.

Remember a few months ago, I shared why we don’t play the credit card game? And that I know a big reason people reluctantly play the credit card game is because they want a good FICO score in order to buy a house? But that it just isn’t worth it to us?

Well…. We did it. We bought a house. And with almost no credit score. Today, we hold the keys to a modest fixer-upper that’s already seen our drops of sweat, and it’s not because of stress from a high interest rate, challenging paperwork, or biting off more than we can chew.

I hesitate to call this a “how-to” post, because I know every family’s situation is different. But I’d love to tell you how we bought our house by swimming upstream.

Grab yourself a cup—I’ve made this post as short as I can while still keeping in the essential details.

1. The early stage: contacting a realtor.

The first step was to find a trustworthy realtor we’d enjoy working with, so I went straight to Dave Ramsey’s ELP program and requested info.

One woman called us within 24 hours, and right away, we could tell she was a firecracker. She totally knew the market and the process of home buying. She didn’t care that we wanted a modest home with a small price tag. She didn’t laugh at our stupid questions.

In short—Sarah became our partner. We loved every minute of working with her. Quite honestly, we already miss her! She’ll be one of the first people we invite over for dinner once we’ve settled in.


Run, don’t walk, to Dave’s ELP program if you’re searching for a good realtor. Or insurance agent, or financial planner—because that’s where we’ve gone for those people, too, and it hasn’t disappointed us. Great, great people.

2. The search began.

The market is really picking up here in Bend, Oregon, so it was tough to find our house. We’d find something in our price range, only for it to be snagged by an investor within a few hours of its listing.

We made our list of essentials, made a second list of would-be-nice-but-aren’t-willing-to-die-overs, and searched patiently. It was hard, to be honest, because we just wanted to cut to the chase already.

But we waited and watched.

3. The money stuff happened simultaneously.

Behind the scenes, we were also looking for a mortgage provider. We knew this part would be tricky, because we’re an unusual case—we have almost no FICO scores, and we’re not willing to open lines of credit just to have one. But we also knew this is how the game is played 99 percent of the time.

We contacted Churchill Mortgage to see if they had any leads in our area, and they pointed us to a particular company. Well, they couldn’t help us, but they pointed us to Wells Fargo, and said they sometimes offer mortgages with “traditional underwriting.”

Wells Fargo? A big bank? Really? It surprised us, but we were running out of ideas, so we called anyway.

Turns out we didn’t scare them off. More than a few people laughed at us and told us we were screwed, but Wells Fargo didn’t bat an eye. They wanted to work with us—hooray! But now the real work began.

Our soon to be non-ugly front door.

4. We went the traditional, untraditional route.

So there’s something called traditional, or manual, underwriting. This is basically the same way they approved people for mortgages back in the day before the almighty FICO score. The lender looks at your credit history, and if there’s not enough information, they create a “manual credit report” by gathering details about your financial history outside of debt.

We’ve been debt-free since early 2009, and even then, we only had my student loans. We hadn’t had open credit card accounts since 2005. So began the process of creating enough of a financial history to replace a credit history.

We had to write out our bill paying information—everything from health insurance to cell phone plans to utility services. And then Wells Fargo called each and every company—with me on the other line—to verify all this information.

Needless to say, it took awhile.

They also asked for our tax statements, employment history, and references so they could call them and verify that we weren’t in the mafia. In short…. They went way out of their way to make sure we, in all our debt-freeness, were upstanding citizens who would pay off their mortgage.

Ironic, isn’t it? Because we’re debt-free, we have enough money for a sizable down payment, plus plenty to make hefty monthly payments. But because we’re debt-free, we have to jump through hoops to prove our financial stability. I laugh at the way things work these days.

5. We saved our money.

All along, we had been saving money with a specific, reachable financial plan. After we became debt-free, we saved up for an emergency fund. Then we had to use most of that emergency fund, so we saved up for it again.

We set aside funds for smaller things, like a vacation, buying a family car, and moving (okay, so those things aren’t smaller). But all along, we threw any extra money to our down payment fund.

It took awhile, but we were persistent. And close to the end, every little dime went to that fund. And sure enough… by closing date, we had more than 20 percent of our house’s purchase price saved. Enough for a sizable down payment.


It has really helped us to have separate savings accounts for each of these savings goals. We love Capital One 360 because they allow as many savings accounts as you want, you can change their names, and it’s easy-peasy to transfer money around. Highly recommended.

6. We found our house!

Honestly, we saw our future house in the MLS a few times and didn’t think much of it. We thought it was pretty, but the price didn’t seem right for the size and location, so we assumed something was wrong with it. Plus, it was a little outside the location we preferred.

But once we saw it, we really, really liked it. The layout was good, it had amazing natural light, and best of all—it had potential. We wanted a fixer-upper because we wanted to put our stamp on a place, and Kyle used to be a contractor, so he has mad skills.

Finn is as shocked about the natural light as I am.

I’ll spare you the details behind the price negotiation, because it went back and forth for awhile. Offers, counter offers, counter counter offers, counter counter counter offers…. you get the idea. We walked away for awhile. But we eventually came back. Our rockstar realtor was unbelievably patient and persistent.

It really helped that I stayed emotionally unattached until we actually signed. Up until closing, I was willing to walk away if it didn’t work out. We also didn’t talk it up too much in front of the kids, because they really liked the house (hey, it came with a clubhouse in the backyard), and we didn’t want their hearts to break.

7. …And then one day, we signed.

Signing day was fun, but it was also a bit uneventful. Our stack of paper really wasn’t that high. The title representative joked that she had never seen so much blank paper listing the liabilities—paper we still had to sign to acknowledge that yep, we really, honestly, truly don’t have debt.

We got a great deal—a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a 3.5 percent interest rate. According to Kyle’s hardcore spreadsheets, we should have it paid off in three years.

So now we’re cash flowing renovations. Be prepared—you’ll probably see lots of before and after pics in the coming months! I’m excited to share how we’re saving money and making this house into our home.

It’s a week of celebration for us—a milestone for this very nomadic family (which, in case you’re wondering, this home purchase actually helps us travel more). We are humbled at God’s goodness.

I don’t want to run this topic into the ground, but I’m also happy to go into more detail, if you like. Do you have any specific questions about our experience? Anything else you’d like me to write about?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Congrats on your new step in life! Having not a house but a home is truly such a great feeling. Your goals and dedication really shine through. I find your experiences very inspiring. I hope to learn so much from you!

  2. Melissa Rhodes says:

    Awesome news! Congratulations! What an amazing feeling to have a place of your own and know that it will also be off the liability line in such a (relatively) short time. Good work!

  3. so happy for you!!!! such an amazing accomplishment!!

  4. Wow, 3.5% fixed interest rate, that is a great deal! In Australia, we’re paying 6.58% (variable) and that’s at the very low end of the going rates. To have that paid off in just a few years will be so exciting, and so will all of your renovating. Yay! So excited for you.

    • Well, it’s definitely not typically this low, and predictions are that it’ll go up very soon…. One of the reasons we wanted to go ahead and buy now!


  6. That is so great! You are a true Dave Ramsey example. Please send this to him so that he features it to his listeners!

  7. Hooray! This is SO exciting!
    My husband and I will be making our very last debt payment by next month and we’re SO excited to be debt free! Next up, Save, Save, Save! Maybe one day I’ll be posting about buying a house the “traditional, nontraditional way”. 🙂

    • You can do it!

    • Vanessa, I am so proud of you. Keep going. You can do it. We became debt free (except for our primary mortgage) and it is amazing.

      Tsh, thanks for sharing your very inspiring story. People need more real life stories to see that it can be done.


    So excited for you =)

  9. Congratulations! It’s a great feeling to have “affordable housing”.

    Back when I was a single mom living in Portland, OR, I saved everything I could for 2 years for a down payment on a house. I was able to find a house, with the patience of an awesome realtor and the grace of God, that was cheaper than I could find renting anywhere else. It was truly a blessing. I rented it out when I had to move back down to California years later, and it is still a rental property for us. I was able to pay off the mortgage entirely this past January – woohoo! My husband and I are debt-free (excluding our other mortgages), and and now working on accelerated payments/debt snowball for our other properties.

  10. CONGRATULATIONS TSH!!!!! what a huuge huge milestone for the family! 🙂

    i saw “we bought a house” on twitter and almost thought maybe you had been hacked again… but clicked the link anyway and saw the great news.

    would love to know more about the thought process behind 1) why to buy/how you knew it was a good time/opportunity/part of the world 2) things you were looking for (or not looking for) and whether or not you got what you wanted with this new place 3) all the things you have planned for it!

  11. Congratulations! It’s great to read about this interesting process.

  12. What wonderful news for you guys! And to get a 15 year mortgage, amazing! Our situation was slightly different when we bought our house as well. We had purchased a piece of land, intending to build on it, so we were putting all of our money into buying this piece of land, and then the house we are in came out of nowhere, perfect location, incredibly cheap, and we went for it. Our mortgage broker went back and forth with the underwriter and all of our info for quite a while, but it all turned out well. And we are happy in this house now, but we still have that land on the side…which eventually we will settle into.

  13. so exciting! just wondering if you could chat a bit more about renting/buying and the decision that led to that process. we currently live overseas, but hope to return to North America in five years to settle, at which point, we’d love to buy with at least more than 50% down…

    enjoy all the good things about a homebase – the getting to come back after going away. 🙂

  14. Soan Jacob says:

    Been following your blog for quite sometime now. Always find something worthwhile here. 🙂
    Congratulations on your new house. And look forward to reading about your adventures here with the fixing and making it your own.
    All the way from India

  15. Meredith says:

    Congratulations! How exciting! Can’t wait to see the renovation pictures.

  16. Congratulations! And for the record, I think that front door’s kind of cute 🙂 Maybe it’s just the picture?

  17. Oh my gosh Tish. I’m dying here. First of all congratulations!! And secondly – “a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a 3.5 percent interest rate” WHAT??! That is amazing!! I’m from Bend and have a super cute little house there downtown in the historical district. I’ve lived overseas (Australia) since 2001, renting it out to my brother. Everything works fine except my interest rate is nearly 7!!! And I’ve tried to get a refinance, but have been refused because of my income. My husband and I are missionaries, living on what most would call a very tiny, tiny income. Never mind we have no debt and that I’ve never been late on a mortgage payment. My mortgage just got bought over my Wells Fargo early this year actually. So far the move has been frustrating (setting up the new online banking etc, a zillion international phone calls!) and I haven’t been super impressed with them. But maybe I need to look into another refinance?? Your experience sounds incredible. We’ll be home for a visit in July. Maybe I should check into things?? You’re giving me hope. Would love to hear any more advice you have. 3.5 sounds like a dream!!!

    • Adriel, You should definitely shop around. We have our mortgage through a credit union – Idaho Central Credit Union – and they had what they were calling a “Freedom Loan” refinance and it was FREE! No closing costs or any points or anything. We refinanced to a 10-year loan at less than 4% and will have it paid off in less than 5 years! Definitely shop around!!! You may even be close enough to Boise to check with Idaho Central. I highly recommend them and I have no affiliation with them except that I’m a highly satisfied customer of more than 25 years.

      • Thank you so much Britiney! We also have a credit union in Bend (Mid-Oregon Credit Union). I hadn’t even thought about checking with them too. Appreciate the tip!

        And WOW five years – that is SO awesome!!!

    • Hi, Adriel! I’d love to meet you this summer! And yes, I can share some specific details about the guy we worked with here in Bend. Tweet or email me when you’re in town, and we’ll have to connect!

      • Tsh, I’m just now seeing this response – sorry! I didn’t get notified of your reply (or Britiney’s) but scrolled down just now when I came back to re-read (and pin) your post again. Your story about your house makes my head spin. I just love it – gives me so much hope.

        Anyway, would love to get together for a cuppa when I’m in town. I’m going to meet up with Alia too – would be great to all meet up together. (She mentioned she knows you.) Will DM you to get your guy’s contact details. Definitely worth getting in touch with him. THANKS!

  18. Congratulations on your home purchase! Dave Ramsey would be proud! I can’t wait to see pictures!

    • I agree with Shannon, Dave would be proud! Your story is proof that credit scores aren’t all that matter!!

      Congrats on the new house! And I’m loving the fact that y’all should have it paid off in 3 years…amazing!!

  19. Congratulations! It’s awesome what you’ve been able to do going the “nontraditional” route.

  20. Woohoo!!! Congrats Tsh!

  21. Wow. What a great house buying story. Your ability to save inspires me. You can have your home paid off in 4 years? I’m.so.impressed!

    Can’t wait to see the pics! Love when people take fixer uppers and make dream homes…


  22. I’d love to hear you speak more about how the home purchase will make traveling easier. Congratulations!

  23. Congratulations on your home purchase and the wise way in which you conducted the process!! Looking forward to following along as you turn this house into your home!

  24. Christine says:

    Congratulations!!! Thanks so much for sharing all of your stories–I love reading about your daily life 🙂 Keep us updated on the renovations–we too, are huge “DIY-er’s” & constantly find things to change in our house. Love the Dave Ramsey life style as well–good to know the ELP’s really do work out!

  25. maddalena seccacini says:

    congratlations! yoi sound so happy. . and proud of your achievement!
    and your children seem so happy too. . .
    i’m looking forwrad to hear from you how you save money . . all the technichs. . . and all the nice things you will do to transform your house in your home.

  26. Congratulations! I can’t wait to hear all about your family’s adventures in your home 🙂

    Wonderful news and I LOVE (and am so inspired by) how you went against the common financial grain and did it your way, no matter what obstacles you had to face to get there!


  27. Congratulations! Enjoy!

  28. What wonderful news for your family! We are leading Dave Ramsey FPU on Sunday nights at our apartment and last night’s lesson was on this very thing. It can be done and it is a great feeling. We plan to put a sizable down payment down or to pay cash for a house when we are ready. We are still paying off our student loans and then we are going to move on to the rest of the baby steps. Its so encouraging to hear from others that this does work. After we have worked so hard to be out of debt – going back into debt even if it is for a house does not sound enticing. I think that’s amazing that y’all will have that paid off in 3 years! Way to go!

    • Trust me, it’s killing us to even have a mortgage, so I know exactly what you mean. The debt-free lifestyle…. there’s nothing like it. Can’t wait!

  29. So happy for you! I look forward to seeing LOTS of pictures!

  30. Congratulations! When we bought our house four years ago, it was a similar process. We drove our realtor crazy coming back half a dozen times to look at this little trashed-out foreclosure. We spent a month going back to the house and measuring everything, so that we could calculate our renovation estimates pretty closely before we ever made an offer. We knew, when we made our offer, how much we could expect to pay for tile, flooring, drywall, paint, wiring, etc. (my husband is also a contractor). We had planned how much of it my husband would do, and how much we would hire out. We knew we had money in the bank to pay for all that, plus two months in a rental while we fixed the house, plus 25% of what we were willing to pay for the house.
    When I called the credit union about getting a mortgage, I told her we only wanted to borrow $18,000 for a 10 year loan. She kept trying to convince me to take more money (just because we qualified for it), and she kept trying to get me to lengthen the loan to a 20-30 year loan. I finally had to tell her that the reason we qualified for more was because we didn’t let people talk us into spending money we don’t have. The process was long and slow, but we love our house, and we were so glad to have that tiny payment when my husband was laid off the next year.

    • Love that! Thanks for sharing your story, too.

      • Scherry says:

        To Sarah: May I quote your great line, ” I finally had to tell her that the reason we qualified for more was because we didn’t let people talk us into spending money we don’t have. “???
        Congrats to you and to Tish and Family! Great commitment!! Scherry in University Place WA

    • Scherry says:

      May I quote your great line, ” I finally had to tell her that the reason we qualified for more was because we didn’t let people talk us into spending money we don’t have. “. ?? Congrats to you and to Tish and Family! Great commitment!! Scherry in University Place WA

  31. That is SO wonderful! Enjoy your new home!

  32. Congratulations!

    Sad to say, not all ELPs are fantastic. We actually had to report the one in our area to the Dave Ramsey team. The ELP was not interested in helping us once he found out how much (little) we had to spend. Very discouraging. We do use the ELP for investing in our area so I know the ELP program CAN be helpful, just not always.

    We’re trying to sell our house now with a high octane realtor we found on our own. What a roller coaster ride.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, but thank for you letting Dave’s ELP team know. I know they care a great deal about having only the best of the best in their program. So hopefully they took care of things.

  33. Awesome, Tsh! Congrats!! Looking forward to all the upcoming house renovation details…

  34. Congratulations! I look forward to seeing what you do with your new home.

  35. How exciting is that! I’m so proud of you! I’d love tips on becoming debt free. It seems that no matter how hard I try, there is something else that comes up that needs taking care of. I think if things calmed down enough to get out of debt, then we could work on a hefty savings instead…

    • Hi Lisa—I wrote a post years ago about how we got out of debt here. There’s lots of information around the Internet, too, but I think the best resource is Dave Ramsey. You don’t have to agree with everything he says to still use his plan for becoming debt-free. Millions have done it, so it’s definitely possible!

  36. So exciting and inspiring–congratulations!!!

  37. I didn’t know this was possible, Tsh! I’m young, on my own, and deep in credit card debt but I am making serious plans (budgeting, lifestyle change, second job) to overcome it. It’s relieving to know I can step away from credit cards all together one day and not have to look back!

    Now I’m moving on to stalk your “My $.02…” post. Thanks!

  38. I’ve been so inspired by you, Simple Mom, and by Organized Simplicity! In the past year our family has paid off all credit card debt and went from owing $9,000 to $3,000 on my husbands car. And thats with adding a new baby, new (used) mini-van (to accommodate new baby), and a new house (also to accommodate new baby). We have more and owe less than we did a year and a half ago. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your stories and experience with us readers!

    We also bought a fixer upper, that’s how we ended up with 700 more sq. feet and only increased our monthly note by $75, ha ha 🙂 I’d love to see your before and after pictures, maybe I can draw some inspiration there too!

  39. Congrats and happy renovating! It’s such a rewarding process (spoken from the other end of all the work, here!)… at ages 35 and 36, we have just paid off our mortgage and are completely debt-free. I love your comment about how having a house helps facilitate travel more, because that’s exactly one of the reasons I want to stay where we are (although many days I want to move, due to not-great neighbors), so that we have the time and money to travel. Can’t wait to see before and after pics, those are my favorite!

  40. How exciting. I would love to be debt free. All of our debt is old. How awesome to own your own home and get to fix it up. I need to be disciplined enough to follow the Dave Ramsay plan. I read one of his books and really like it. Maybe now is the time.

  41. Wow – congratulations! And what a great rate, too! I’d love to see renovation/”settling in” pictures!

  42. Big congrats! We’re long-time debt-free and self-employed so we’re familiar with being square pegs in the round holes of life!

    I have questions. I always have questions!
    1. I’m wondering how you’ll budget for renovations. Are you going full-throtle on the mortgage payments first or doing some of both?
    2. Will you have a penality for paying the mortgage off early? (Often it’s worth it…).
    3. I can guess on your reply but please elaborate on how this fits with more travel.
    4. Any additional costs to home ownership that you’ve had to budget for?

    and best of all

    5. When do you get to move in?


    • Ooh, great questions! I’ll save some for future posts, but I can tell you quickly that no, no penalty for paying off early (believe me, we definitely asked that! 🙂 ), and we’ll probably move in at the end of May, when the floor is down and the kitchen is functional.

  43. Congratulations!!! Can’t wait to see the rest of it and all the before/afters 🙂

  44. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story. It will be fun to see the photos of your new home. I love encouraging stories about being able to do things outside the norm. My dad recently told me I am “not normal” but in a good way 🙂 We are putting a few hundred extra dollars on our mortgage each month (it is our only debt) and I set these payments up in advance to avoid any decision making each month. We are in an expensive time of life – things really do cost much more as kids get older!!!! – but it is so important to my husband and I to have FREEDOM in this area.

  45. Loved, loved, loved your post!! Congratulations to you and your family for having the patience to delay gratification. We are on much of the same journey only in the middle of the saving part, and it has been one small baby step at a time. Your post could not have arrived at a better time or been more encouraging! Blessings to you and your family in the next part of your journey.

  46. Congratulations! I hope to see lots of fixer-upper pictures on Instagram. 🙂

  47. Woohoo! I wouldn’t be surprised if you could hear me hollering “Congratulations” from the northeast corner of the U.S.

    I facilitate Ramsey’s Financial Peace, and FICO always comes up in discussions in the credit card and mortgage lessons. The marketing has been so good that people basically don’t believe it is possible to truly buy a house without a credit score.

    I am keeping a copy of this so I have it handy when we hit those nights in our current and upcoming classes!

    Thanks so much for highlighting your journey. Hopefully it will help break the stranglehold on “Gotta have a credit score” mentality, and give real encouragement to those who are working towards debt freedom!!

  48. congratulations!! i’ve been following you for a few years now – 2? i don’t know. my brain is mush – and i’ve seen your posts about how hard you’ve been working to save for a large down payment. i am super excited for you and your family. and jealous that you live in bend! i live just on the other side of the mountains so if there’s to be a housewarming party…. 😉

  49. Congratulations! I hope you have fun feathering your new nest and look forward to see lots of budget friendly ideas to do just that! Very inspirational story! Thank you for sharing!

  50. I strive to reach this one day. We also live credit card and debt free but unfortunately we have such low income that savings are just not an option and we live pay cheque to pay cheque. I am hoping something changes and we can have savings but for now we watch every penny and get a little boost from the local food bank.

  51. Congratulations! that is SO exciting! And I can’t wait to see pictures of that clubhouse- your kids must be over the moon about it!

  52. This is so encouraging to read. My husband and I are on Dave Ramsey’s plan and will be debt free in June (we’ve been working on baby step 2 for three years.) So next is the emergency fund and then saving a down payment for a house (we currently rent.) I have always been a little anxious that getting a manually underwritten mortgage may be a lot more difficult than Dave lets on. So glad to hear, that while it was a longer more detailed process, it was possible and you got a great loan at a great rate. My question is, why did Churchill send you guys somewhere else and not do the loan themselves?

    • Because they don’t work everywhere. They didn’t have reps in our pocket of the world…. But they do have tight connections with people who work similarly, so ended up okay. It’s similar to Dave’s ELP program, actually, but through Churchill instead.

  53. Congratulations! Hope you enjoy your new digs!

  54. Tiffany C. says:

    What a wonderful and motivating story! Thank you for sharing it!

  55. Congratulations! I can literally feel your joy jumping off the page when I read this post! I can’t wait until the day I am able to write a similar post for my family.

    Now…show us the house! And by the way, I think the front door is perfectly charming, but I can’t wait to see how you will make it your own 🙂 I am so happy for your family!

  56. Congratulations! Your story is so inspiring. We bought a condo in 2005. And we played the game of credit lines and FICO scores. I was able to purchase it all under my name because my credit scored rock. Needless to say, we had to short sale our home last year, my credit is now crap, but now we are rebuilding our lives around being debt free and no more credit cards. I have written off wanting to own a home ever again. But your story gives me hope that I don’t have to play that same again. And Bend is awesome. We stayed in Sun River with our friends who have a vacation home there last summer and the community and outdoor play there is awesome. Look forward to seeing your renovations. Yay, to natural light!

  57. donna attaway says:

    So happy for you and your family!!! Keep us posted ….we want to hear all about it 🙂 🙂
    Love your blog and your positive outlook on well….everything…
    Best wishes as you make this home “yours”..
    Donna A.

  58. Ashley Serene says:

    Congratulations!! I look forward to seeing the before and afters!

  59. I’d love to see before/after pictures and hear what were your must haves for a house and why. congratulations on the house!!

  60. Congrats! Can’t wait to see what you do with your place 🙂

  61. Congrats! We are also a nomadic, soon-to-be- overseas family (moving to Southeast Asia).

    Could you maybe touch on how the bank verified your financial information and bill paying for the time you were living overseas? Thanks!

    • Sure, I could do that sometime. But I think it really depends on the country, each bank, etc. Wells Fargo basically had the phone number of our landlord from the Middle East and contacted the bank we used. I wasn’t on that particular call, but I imagine it was pretty comical with the language and cultural barriers. 🙂

  62. Congratulations, Tsh! So excited for you!

  63. Congrats! What gorgeous floors! And I like your door. 🙂

  64. I don’t think any of us will tired of hearing more about your house. Your experience is really a reminder of how hard work and perseverance pay off.
    Can’t wait to hear about how you fix it up on a budget. Congratulations.

  65. Congratulations on your new home! I’d love to learn more about your saving techniques. We are almost debt free but can’t seem to get the “saving” down right.

    • The short answer for you right now is to not save more than the bare minimum while you pay off debt. Don’t focus on the 3-6 months of savings right now—save something like $1-3K, depending on where you live and your family situation. It’s not much, but that’ll light the fire to paying off your debt as soon as you can.

      Then, once you’re debt-free, you’ll be able to put all that money towards savings. And it’ll go much faster. The first time we saved up our emergency fund, we had a goal of 9 months—it took 4. 🙂

  66. Congratulations! I can’t wait to see what cool (but simple, I’m sure) touches you put on the new place.

  67. Congratulations, Tsh! Looks like a great house….now you can home swap!

  68. Congratulations! This is so exciting! I love that you went counter-culture in the whole process, and it is amazing to see that someone actually got a lone without a credit card. Hopefully someday when we are ready to settle down we’ll be able to do the same!

  69. Congrats Tsh!!! Very inspiring … And yes! Share the before & after pics. 🙂

  70. Congratulations, Tsh! I’m really inspired by your choices–thank you so much for sharing this with us. I already love your house based on the two photos you posted. Can’t wait to see more!

  71. Ellen S. says:

    Hooray! I love hearing when people are successful with the Dave Ramsey program because I’m such a believer in it myself. Congratulations, well-done on the hard work and effort because I’m convinced that you’ll find it was worth every little bit!

  72. Gina in S FL says:

    It’s so important that you are serving as an example for those who do not have good money habits. Your saving for what you want is a life skill many people don’t have. The more they hear your success story and the purchase of your home, maybe a lightbulb will go off for them. Keep the message going! 😉

  73. Congratulations! Already into our 50s and with our big family, I had to face the other day that we may never be mortgage free, which has been a big dream of mine for a long time. But it’s one of those “if we reach that, everything would be better” things, and that takes from today and what I should be doing, perhaps. God has blessed us in so many ways, and maybe that’s not one of the way He’s chosen for us. But I’m so happy for your accomplishment and the stress you won’t have because of it.

  74. That’s amazing – congratulations!

  75. Tori Kieshnick says:

    This post came out just when I needed it! My husband and i have been gazelle intense for almost 3 years now (we were given FPU and My Total Money Makeover as a wedding gift, BEST GIFT EVER) and are almost out of my student loan mess and a messy very very rough expensive pregnancy (we paid that off before our daughter’s first birthday). 3 more months! I have been itching to get a house for our little family but reading this reminded me that it CAN be done the right way. Thanks for sharing your journey and encouraging a few along the way.

    • Be patient; it’ll happen! You’ve done so well already, it sounds like. And I agree, FPU is an awesome wedding gift!

  76. Fantastic news Tsh! Congrats to the whole fam. Patience wins, every time!

  77. What a fantastic & exciting post! Congrats on you new home!! 🙂

  78. Congrats – that is so fabulous! We’re working the Dave Ramsey plan as well. A car, student loan and then the house. We’re lucky to be able to make sizable payments each month, so I’m hoping we can get to where you are very quickly!

  79. Congratulations!

  80. Great story! I am excited to hear more details as you work at this. We are planning on buying a home soon….using cash (we got debt-free & are saving while renting), but are constantly hearing others say we should try to get MORE because we can. Thanks for reminding us what matters!

    • We definitely could qualify for more house than we ended with. It was kinda hard sometimes because there were some houses we could sign on with less work, but we knew it would take us longer to pay it off. And we’d rather pay it off sooner and add sweat equity to the value. So yes…. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, right? 🙂

  81. Wow Tish! I’m impressed and inspired! That is truly amazing and a blessing. I’ve been following your blog and books for awhile now. I’m a friend of Diane Yost (she was our doula too)
    God bless you and your new home!!

  82. Congratulations, Tsh! We, too, are out of debt and own our home. A fun thing we did with our kids was run a piece of masking tape all the way down the center of our home. (Ours is one story.) Whenever we made a payment, we would let a child rip off a portion of the tape equal to the principal paid, to show how much of our home we owned, and how much the bank still owned. “Oh, sorry, this payment goes to interest. We don’t get to take any off this time.” We had a celebration when we “owned our bathroom now,” and a mortgage-burning party when it was all paid off.

  83. Kyle is so much like Steve! Steve is Mr. Budget and helps us so much. We love having the control to know we can manage well what God has given us. If it wasn’t for Steve’s same hardcore, we wouldn’t be where we are. (so thankful … we’re debt-free, too). We found Dave Ramsey about half a year ago. We listen to him in the van on trips and the kids get so annoyed. But I borrowed $15 from Eli yesterday and he waltzed up to me with the money and then he shouted, “YOU’RE! NOT! DEBT! FREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” 🙂

  84. Congrats! Isn’t being debt free such a blessing?! We were able to become debt free 2 years ago and we have never been happier! So glad you guys were patient and did things the right way! Have fun fixing up your house!

  85. Congratulations!!!

    I am sooooo happy for you; yes.

    But I am proud, proud, PROUD! of the WAY you did it!!!!

    Carol, FPU grad, drunk the koolaid concerning Dave.

  86. Wow! Congratulations and thank you for the inspiration!

  87. Congratulations!

  88. How exciting! My husband and I hope to buy our first home soon, and we’ve been working on paying down our debt. It’s been a long process, to say the least!

    I would love to read a summary of the steps you’ve taken over the past few years to reach this point. I know you followed DR, but maybe something a bit more specific as to how his plan worked for you personally? I still struggle following his plan 100%, so any tips or advice you have would be great!

    Have fun with the remodeling. 🙂


  89. Awesome! Congratulations! This post is so inspiring – thank you for sharing! My husband and I have been trying to figure out how we can go about buying a home now that we’ve been debt-free for awhile. Of course we’d love to buy one 100% but that would take quite some time – haha! Your experience is a great encouragement!

    • We were definitely willing to do that if we couldn’t find the “right” mortgage. I know what you mean!

  90. Katie N. says:

    Just wanted to say congrats! And your family is so cute! Can’t wait to see pics/before and afters!

  91. Everything about this post makes me happy. SO thrilled for you (and all your family), Tsh!!



  92. congratulations!

  93. Tsh — Congratulations!

    Hooray for fixer uppers and handy husbands – my own handy hubby and I removed a wall in our 40 year old house together this weekend. I love to nest and put my own stamp on things as well. I am laughing at myself as I type this because I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now and only JUST NOW figured out that you are the same person, in fact the author of the book I’m reading right now. Your book is on my bedside table, I’ve been ending and starting my quiet days with you. : ) So fun! It makes me feel even more excited for you and your lovely new adventure.


  94. Congratulations! That’s really exciting for your whole family.

    I was prepared to walk away from our house, and almost did — but then they found some extra money and agreed to make the repairs the inspector said was needed.

    I disagree about the financial ELPs from Dave Ramsey — when I spoke with them, they touted high-fee investments. Not interested.

    • Hmm…. Not our financial guy. Guess it just depends on who you work with. You might want to let the ELP team know.

  95. Sharon O says:

    How did I miss the fact that you are an Oregonian? I am too. I live in Yamhill county near the wine country. Awesome news about your home.
    Good luck and God bless.

  96. Yay! So very happy for you all! Can’t wait to see your before and after pictures- the frugal renovations!

  97. Congratulations!!! I am so excited for you! I want more pictures! especially before and afters as you renovate! those are my favorites!

  98. So excited for you and just can’t wait to read more of your journey – fabulous, fabulous news!!! Wishing you all the best on your new adventure!!!

  99. I can’t wait to read about the progress of the house! We are selling our home now, renting for a year, and then we’ll “start over”. The only debt we have at this moment is the house and a car. We don’t want to be trapped by a house payment anymore. We want to be comfortable and have enough left over to travel. Good luck with everything!

  100. Yes, it is totally ironic that being debt free raises questions on your credibility. Good job you guys!!

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