Here’s the cut to the chase headline: We made our last mortgage payment in December 2008. We now own our house outright and we’re “debt-free."
In 1987, Deb and I were expecting our first kid and decided that it would be good to build for the future. We decided to build a new house, and we built as much house as we thought we would ever need for our future family. This meant a 2400 square foot four bedroom house in Beaverton, Oregon. We financed this place in a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage, financing about $86,000 (90% of the house value).
Roll forward 7 years. Now we have two little kids, no plan to have any more, and mortgage rates were at a historic low. So in 1994, still at the same company, we thought we could afford to refinance and stretch ourselves to do a 15 year loan.
If you look at the trend data over those years, we refinanced at a good time. After 1994, rates didn’t come down again to that level for another couple of years. But from 2001 onwards, the going rates for mortgages were much cheaper. We could have refinanced for many years and had a cheaper monthly payment.
But when we did refinance in ‘94, I remember being really frustrated that we had not worked down the loan principle! We were still just as much in debt as we were before, even though our house had appreciated in value of course. It irked me in a way I can’t explain.
But so much could have knocked us off course. Fundamentally, I have to agree with my sister here, who once complained that I am a boring person. Here’s proof:
- I have been employed during almost entire time during our loan. What savings we had got us through the periods where I was unemployed. I turned down some riskier career decisions which would have ended badly.
- For cars, we choose cars with a good reliability record. We buy them brand new with cash, and we drive them well over 100,000 miles. My 1990 Accord lasted until 2003 quite nicely; my wife’s 1997 Plymouth Voyager is looking to be replaced soon.
- Deb is a shopping genius. She knows where to find the best deals on everything, showing much more patience than me. As a result, we spend a lot less than I expect on everyday
- Although we don’t have cable TV (!) we do have a lawn service do our mowing and such. This is because we get little enjoyment out of mandatory yard work or out of most cable shows.
- We do spend more than most on vacation travel. We don’t take a fancy trip every year, some years we have just gone car camping. When we can afford it, we enjoy the experience of travel and love the experience our kids are getting with other cultures. But our travel is cash only – we don’t take out a loan for travel, including making sure we pay off any credit card expenses in the same month we incur them.
- We committed some years ago to giving 10% of our gross income to charity. Deb has been the pioneer here and I am impressed by her faith and consistency. By the way, we only contribute to organizations, people or causes where we are either involved with the boards or the people directly and can see the work going on.
So I guess my general laziness and boring habits have bored our mortgage to death. Good thing, it can go to work for people with more interesting lives!
 Debt free – definition: at any given time, we might have some balance on our one credit cards. But we make every effort to pay them off in the same month that we incur the expense. I really hate paying finance charges! They seem like a complete waste of money.