How to Survive IKEA

I love IKEA! But have you ever noticed that everyone enters IKEA smiling and giddy only to be released hours later looking war-torn and weary? How sad. Well, I treated myself to a spur-of-the-moment IKEA trip yesterday and I thought I would share my four tips on how to survive and come out smiling. 

 

   
Rule #1:  Shopping trips and inspiration trips are two separate things. I love walking around the acres of showroom IKEA has to offer. But if you are going to BUY things, I seriously suggest you skip this area altogether. I prefer to browse the showroom only on leisure trips where I am there for the specific purpose of looking around and getting ideas. This leads me to…

Rule #2:  Shop online first! IKEA has a great website where you can create a shopping list of all the things you like. You simply select which store you plan on going to, and it will generate a printable checklist, complete with aisle and bin numbers… So you can skip the showroom and go right to what you need in the marketplace! Brilliant!

    
Rule #3:  Never shop hungry. Whether I am there to shop or just look, my first stop is always the cafe. My favorite thing to get is their chocolate indulgence cake and a free cup of coffee. Yep, coffee is always free for IKEA Family Members! Now that I am thoroughly caffeinated and sugared up, it’s time to end with…

Rule #4:  Head toward the exit at the first sign of weariness. Even if you stick to my previous rules, the sheer amount of stuff IKEA has to offer will eventually drain you. As soon as it does, put down that throw pillow and head to the check out! You will do a much better job shopping if you return another day refreshed. 

  
Here is a little sample from my shopping trip. I would show you more, but I don’t want to give it all away before the big “reveal!”

  

WE’RE DEBT FREE!

Next Tuesday, we will appear live on the Dave Ramsey Show to scream to the world that we are debt free. If you don’t listen to his show, this is something called, “the debt free scream.” We are making a special week-long trip to Tennessee to celebrate our new-found freedom from the chains of debt. It’s been a long road and we are so ready to celebrate. If you are curious, listen to the show! We will be on at 2pm Tuesday, May 5th (find a station in your area).
WeddingPhot

Our journey into freedom started on our wedding day. A good friend, actually Kristy’s boss at the time, gifted us with the best present you could give two newly weds: Financial Peace University. This is Dave Ramsey’s 12-week class on how to become debt free and build wealth. It took us almost a year of looking at the box before we actually got moving.

At that time, Caleb was working on starting Bearded Brothers and Kristy was working full-time at a non-profit. We were living off Kristy’s income, paycheck to paycheck. We were surviving, but not thriving. We knew something had to change if we wanted to start a family someday.

So we signed up for a Financial Peace class at a local church. The class was amazing and inspired us right away to start a budget. This was tough, as both of us were 30 years old when we married and had plenty of time to get set in our ways as to how money should be managed. But God was good to us and we were able to each make sacrifices to live on one income.

Once we got on a budget, then it was time to tackle our debt. Together we had over $60,000 in debt! About $40,000 of that was Kristy’s college tuition. $10,000 was Caleb’s 2009 Subaru Outback and we owed about $10,000 to Caleb’s dad. At first our progress was slow and torturous. We could only scrape together about $100 each month extra to put toward the Subaru. There were days when we felt like giving up and just going out to eat (our biggest temptation). But somehow we muscled through.

Abster-42

It took us just over a year to pay the car off. Oh, and in that time we had our first child! And we paid cash for her birth! We felt like we were finally seeing some traction. But this was also a time of testing. We had decided that it was a priority for Kristy to stay home and raise our daughter, but she was the only wage earner. Caleb was working diligently at getting the business off the ground, but it was an uphill battle and he still was not earning a paycheck. Kristy’s maternity pay came and went. She quit her job in faith that God would provide. We lived on savings for 3 months. Just when Caleb was considering taking a night job, we saw God’s provision. The business got some major promotion and took off! Soon Caleb’s salary replaced Kristy’s. God is so good!

IMG_6153

Next, we tackled the student loan. At $40,000, it was a beast. But Kristy’s midwife had taught her an inspirational saying during childbirth, “push harder than it hurts!” So we leaned into the pain and didn’t shy away. We continued cutting corners and living on as little as we could. We created handmade Christmas gifts instead of buying people things. We invited people over for dinner instead of going out. It was tough to say no to things our friends were doing, but we knew this was short-term pain for long-term gain.

ItsABoy

Soon we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We found out we were pregnant with our son AND paid off the student loan, less than a year after paying off the car!  The biggest contributor to paying off the student loan was the sale of Caleb’s house in Denton, that had been rental property for the previous four years. At this point we were high on paying debt. We only had $10,000 to go and we threw every extra dollar at it. Things moved very quickly at this point, as our debt snowball had reached $900 per month. We paid cash for the birth of our son and were nearly ready to pay off Caleb’s dad when Kristy had some major medical issues postpartum. An ER visit and surgery cost us around $5,000 after insurance. But thanks to Dave Ramsey’s plan, we were not discouraged. We put Dad’s payments on hold and put our entire debt snowball toward the bills.

LifeOfFreedomFamily

Now here we are, less than one year after our precious son’s birth we are completely and totally debt free! Heck, we even had enough money to buy our first home! We are so thankful to God for giving us the strength to persevere and for the support of our friends and family. We are blessed indeed.

Stress Bomb

With 30 days to go until we move into our RV, I’m a total stressed-out maniac. I don’t want to be, but I look at my calendar and know there is no earthly way to get it all done. We still need to sell 90% of our belongings and finish the remodeling on our RV. 

Our house looks like the bottom of a toaster. There are piles and boxes everywhere. I hate this phase. I thrive on order and simplicity… And right now I can’t find either. 

To make matters worse, I feel like a mom-failure. My son turns one in two weeks. I think we will celebrate by installing a new light fixture over the dinette. Happy birthday, Joshy!

Sigh.

If you think about it, say a prayer for me. I know there is peace outside this circumstance. I’m just having a hard time seeing past this temporary chaos. 

RV Remodeling Rollercoaster

I have spent the past week at the ranch with my mom and step-dad working on the RV. It has been one heck of a learning experience and a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I’ve wanted to post updates all week, but I honestly felt exhausted at the end of each day and too frazzled to write anything at all. I love a hard day’s work. The hardest part of all this has been the ups and downs that come with a remodel project (or so I’ve learned from watching HGTV).

We bought our rig for $7,000 and budgeted another $1,000 for repairs. I was hoping to come in a little under that to have some money for changing the decor. When I got to the ranch on Tuesday, Skip has already made a list of the necessary repairs with an itemized parts and labor estimate. If we did everything we would be $550 over budget.


So we nixed the power hitch and hoped we could get lucky with some savings somewhere. That evening I grieved a little. I had really hoped there would be money left for new flooring and other cosmetic updates to the interior. I talked to Caleb and we agreed that those things could be done later as we saved more money. Sigh. 

The next morning, Skip went to the RV supply store and got our parts. To our surprise he was able to get a discount and save us over $250! And he bought us a power hitch as a “bon voyage” gift! Things were looking up.

That evening our repair guy, Armundo, came over to clean the roof and get it ready to be resealed. We got some bad news. The roof was in worse shape than we thought. As he cleaned it, he found some cracks that, while not a problem now, could lead to a new roof in the future. To make matters worse, we got a heavy rain that night (just after he had removed all the old dicor sealant from an area the previous owners had repaired). We woke up to this.

The forecast for the next day said more rain so Mom and I had to get some gorilla tape and tape up our roof. Yep, our trailer has a duct tape roof… Keepin’ it classy! Mom did a great job and no further damage was done.

The bad news was that we found two more leaks. One in the skylight in the bathroom.

The other leak we found in the corners of our slide out as we were removing the couch.

As you can imagine, at this point I’m feeling pretty down. With these new leaks, repair cost will go up. I’m wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.

My mom sensed that I have taken a downturn and suggests we do some shopping for inspiration. She assures me that it’s all going to work out and be beautiful. And when she says this, I believe her. She has a proven record of turning trash into treasure.  She got out several Home & Garden magazines and together we dreamed. I sketched out my dream plan for the RV and we talked colors and fabrics. I found this inspiration pillow at IKEA. The next day we hit the shops with wind back in our sails.

   

Mom had already said she wanted to recover our couch and dinette cushions in leather as a birthday gift for Caleb and I. Woohoo! Things were looking up! Next we found some great upholstery fabrics for the backs of the dinette cushions, the new headboard for our bed and some pillows for the couch. All of which were on super-sale at JoAnn Fabrics!


We still don’t know yet what the full cost of the skylight and slide out repair will be, but we will make it work. We trust that God has set us on this path. In the words of my mother, “It’s all going to work out beautifully!”

Inside Pics- Before the Remodel

Our friends and family have been anxiously awaiting photos of he inside of our first RV. We were so excited and flustered during the sale that we forgot to snap any pictures. Kristy has spent the past week at the ranch with Skip and Lorilee, getting it all cleaned and prepped for some remodel work (more on that later). So, here are the “before” pictures:

Removing the old awning. Yuck!

Master bedroom. The previous owners left us a bunch of stuff, most of which we donated or posted to Craigslist.

Living area “entertainment center.” We plan on ditching the TV and making better use of this area.

 

Living area. There is so much I want to change in here, but we will have to see what the budget allows. So far, we know the couches and dinette will be recovered and valences changed.  I would love to change the flooring throughout, but for now we will steam clean the carpet and hope for the best.

I’m glad you can’t smell this couch right now!

Kitchen area. The previous owners were very clean. Not much has to be changed in here, though I would love to paint the cabinets. But that is certainly out of our budget presently, and they are not in bad shape.

Our tiny bathroom.

Another view of the bathroom. I’m thrilled that it has a tub so we can bathe the kids!

Speaking of the kids… Here is their room! We plan on taking out one bottom bunk to give them some floor space for play.  Oh, and there are a few of these weird carpeted storage boxes in both bedrooms. I don’t know what to do with those. All I know is that stinky carpet is not staying!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour! We’ve already begun the remodeling, so check back soon to see our progress.

Capsule Wardrobe

As you can imagine, the closets in our new home are tiny. I haven’t taken measurements yet, but I knew we would need to weed through our clothes big-time. This is something I enjoy doing a few times a year. Yeah, I’m a weirdo who likes throwing stuff out. As I was surfing Pintrest looking for some good RV organization tips, I found this blog about building a Capsule Wardrobe. Immediately I was sold.

IMG_6874

I have long fantasized about having a small choice of high-quality clothes which easily coordinate into many outfits. This method speaks my language. The idea is to simplify the choices so you have more time to think about and do other things. Now, I don’t stand in front of my closet for hours deciding what to wear each morning (I have toddlers and am basically invisible to the general public), but I do have more clothes than I wear.
Enter the capsule wardrobe! Here’s how I did mine. First, I wrote down the least amount of clothes I would need for a season. I did two seasons labeled “warm” and “cool” because, let’s face it, I live in Texas. Here’s what my list looks like:

Next, I went through and pulled out things from this list, starting with my favorite, go-to items. The main idea is to only keep what you LOVE and wear a lot. Once I had the things on my list, I threw the rest in a Goodwill pile. Done! Here is an after picture of my closet.:

IMG_6875

My wardrobe is not perfect. I would love to replace some of the cheaper things with long-lasting, high-quality pieces, but that will have to come in time. For now, my clothes will fit in my RV closet, and that makes me happy.

 

Craigslist Like Crazy

So now that we’ve purchased our home, we have 6 weeks to get 90% of our belongings sold and move out of our apartment! We are in major Craigslist mode right now. We are selling so much stuff our kids think they might be next.

It’s funny how you start looking at your stuff once you’ve decided to downsize. Everything is negotiable. Things I used to think I needed are now hitting the auction block, and to be honest, it’s pretty easy for me (Kristy). I’ve always been a purger, much to Caleb’s dismay. He likes to hang on to things “just in case” while I like to slash-and-burn.

Probably the hardest things for me to pare down have been the children’s books. Weird, huh? But my Abigail is such a reader (she gets that from me) and we have a lot of memories involving time spent in my lap with a good book. But, I must be sensible and only keep the ones we LOVE.

IMG_0780

Caleb’s hardest sale so far was probably Subarizzle. I think it made him feel adventurous… like at any moment we really could strap a kayak to the top and hit some rapids. Ya know… if we wanted to. In a delicious irony, the man we sold Subarizzle to bought her for his 20-something year-old daughter who lives in Boulder and is having all kinds of fun adventures. Climb on Subarizzle, climb on.

SUBARU OUTBACK

So, the plan is to go through an “area” each week and post everything possible to Craigslist. This week is the laundry room/bathroom. I’m hoping to find a pot of gold or something. So far, the coolest thing I’ve found in there is this… MEOW!

IMG_0782

Anyway, I know Craigslisting stuff is a giant hassle, but right now we need the cash. We do plan on having an apartment sale the week before we move, but I doubt we will get a huge turn out. Low-income apartment complexes are probably not the go-to-spots for most deal seekers. But you never know! We’ll keep you posted.

We Bought a House!

LifeOfFreedomFamily

Welcome to our new home! Yep, it’s got wheels… and with any luck it will be rolling through Colorado in a couple of months. How did we get here? Well, let me tell you.

Our journey started almost two years ago when we met an amazing family while camping out in Arkansas at 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. At the time they were a family of five (now six) and they were living in a C class motorhome. We were so inspired by their lifestyle that we spent the whole ride home from Arkansas scheming of ways to follow in their footsteps.

However, we were still heavily in debt at the time and pregnant with our second child, so the timing just wasn’t right. We revisited the dream several times since and something always held us back. Then suddenly, in March of 2015, everything began falling into place.

We became debt free! This was a major accomplishment and something that we had been working on for almost four years. With our newfound financial freedom, we began thinking about purchasing our first home. But as we looked at the housing market in Austin, we became discouraged that we would ever be able afford a home. Moreover, the thought of going back into debt again, all for some sticks and bricks made us a little queasy.

In our family mission statement, we wrote that we value people and experiences over possessions. Hmmm… this whole buying-a-house thing made us really bring our family mission statement to bear. What was most important to us? After lots of prayer and discussion, we felt like our most authentic choice was to go wild and free.

So we sold Caleb’s beloved Subarizzle (2009 Subaru Outback) and put our plan into motion. Within a month, we had the cash in hand and an RV in our sights. The next step was finding our perfect rig. We wanted a travel trailer with a split bedroom set-up (bunks in the back and master bedroom in the front). In the spring, RV’s go fast as people are gearing up for summer vacations. We found several good deals on Craigslist only to find that they had sold within hours of posting. There were definitely moments of discouragement, but we knew that this journey was in God’s hands.

Sure enough, Kristy’s step-dad found a great travel trailer in New Braunfels – a 2006 Four Winds Travel Trailer. It was exactly what we needed, just below our budget! We had to wait a few days for the RV to be ready to show and we were growing giddy with anticipation. Thankfully, Kristy’s step-dad went with us and asked all the right questions and tested everything out. We felt like total morons, but I’m sure we will learn it all in no time.

So, we bought our first house! We know it’s not conventional, or what most people would want, but to us it’s a dream come true.

Stay tuned for pictures of the inside as we start redecorating and making this tiny house a home!

RV