How confident do you feel about hitting your goals this year? Today, we're going to be discussing not only how you can set up your habits to hit your financial goals, but also any health goals you're trying to knock out this year!
Habit Hacks to Keep Your Money and Health Goals
There's a lot of overlap between fitness and finances.
Not only are these two of the most popular goals people have every year in terms of trying to improve them. They're also the ones that people struggle with and quit before they get to their goal.
Years ago when we were starting to pay off our debt and make some progress with building up our savings. I was thinking about a lot of the parallels between the two.
Even though we're talking about different outcomes. The tools that we need to get to our goals, to reach them are the same. Uh, Many times we have to change our mindset. We have to adapt and adjust our habits. We also have to put in place some kind of system so that we're consistently working towards our goals.
I thought this episode would be really interesting because we're going to be seeing how we can do both. How can we build our finances and get a little bit healthier this year?
Not only has Billy and his family paid off over a hundred thousand dollars of non-mortgage debt, an under five years. He's also a gym owner and coach and the author of fitness profits, a simple plan for achieving financial freedom.
So he has a pretty good idea of how to encourage and help others reach both their fitness and financial goals.
In this episode, we're going to get into:
how Billy slipped into debt but then how he used habits from his fitness to climb out of it
Billy Hofacker: Yeah, things were going well. I was young guy. I was married to my lovely, beautiful wife, which I still am just hit 13 years and yeah.
Thanks. I'll start a family and I was doing what I loved. I was helping people transform their bodies and lives through personal training.
I thought I was just doing what I was supposed to do. I and then that one day my life changed Elle. I was getting ready for work. It was seven something in the morning, knock on the door, which was a little weird, nice and early.
I opened the door and to my surprise, there was this big, big muscle bound dude standing on my stoop with tattoos all over his neck, a shaved head goatee, and turned out to be a really nice guy by the way, but it makes the story better.
As I look past him, there was my, my, not my Lamborghini, not even my Mercedes, but my brand new white Honda accord was hooked up to his tow truck.
And man, what a utter embarrassment and shame and all types of emotions, rollercoaster of emotions, but that's where it started for me.
We dug in and we discovered that we were we were $130,000 in non-mortgage debt. That sounds crazy. You know why? It sounds crazy because it is, and it is a lot.
It was a huge hole. I will say a lot of that wasn't high interest debt. It was still debt. It wasn't mortgage debt. It was in addition to the mortgage and it was it was a real wake-up call.
A lot of people ask me, like, did you know, how did that happen?
It's actually hard to bring myself back there. I'm like a different person. I really am. I can't imagine that I got into that position and the easiest way to describe it.
It's like we talk about the parallels with fitness, which here's one of them. It doesn't happen overnight.
I did not get into $130,000 of debt overnight. It happened with that first swipe that first time and just like, it's not the one Twinkie that's going to put your overweight, right?
It's just those small decisions that we can make over time. Most people, they don't know, they don't gain a ton of weight in a short term.
We work with a lot of older people at the gym and a lot of them have never worked out. They went through their whole life, raising kids and everything, and they never really had a major concern for their health.
Thankfully I was a little bit on the younger side and that was helpful.
Avoiding Looking at the Numbers
Elle Martinez: I think so many people can relate to that. I know for us, when we got engaged, we talked to some friends that were happily married for years and we wanted their advice and they told us, you know, have you talked about money yet?
At that time we met in college. So we're both broke college kids. This shouldn't be hard. And we realized, oh, we completely are not on the same page.
I specifically remember, I couldn't give him the exact debt. It was a mix of a small amount of credit cards, car loan, and then the student loan. So I totally get what you're saying about not exactly knowing the amount, not being aware of it.
When you talked with your wife about this, how was that initial conversation ,because you know, your car is leaving.
Billy Hofacker: Yeah. So I am, I think I'm okay saying this. I am generally more calm than her when it comes to things like that and a quick example of that.
What we're married and she worked in Manhattan and I'm like 45 minutes from Manhattan. I actually picked up Manhattan to go on a trip and I parked down on the ground level.
I went up to her office and said, hello to her coworkers and go, come back out. And the car's gone and we're about to head for like a little vacation.
And I look up and I see right there, it says like trucks only or something like, ah.
That was the first time where I realized we were very different. She completely panicked. Oh my gosh, what are we going to do? And I just like, like without missing a beat, I said, we gotta find out where the car.
Did I was like, that's the only thing I can think. That's the way my mind works very practically. And that's similar how it was here. And I don't blame her. I mean, she had every right to feel very stressed, very discouraged and scared, I guess.
I mean, can you imagine? I mean, I can't even imagine even I went through it you know, she's married to this, this guy who's supposed to take care of her.
I was supposed to be the guy that's that she can trust it to support her and, and all of a sudden the car's gone. And yeah, that was a difficult time.
Deciding the Dump the Debt
Elle Martinez: Yeah. So I can understand different personalities. My husband and I, I think we each have moments where one of us is just like, we'll work this through, this will be fine and then the other one is like, this is too stressful for me.
It's different what triggers us. It's always fascinating. Couples are like that, but yeah. So when you were at that point, what was your first thought or goal about fixing this?
Where you, I mean was immediately, we just have to take care of one piece of this, getting the car back, or did you think, okay, this is a symptom of a bigger thing? Let's take a step back and look at the whole picture.
Billy Hofacker: That's a really good question. I don't know that I thought of it that way, but I would say that it was a little bit of a combination, but I definitely had the bigger picture in mind.
I remember thinking that, ‘This is it like this is going to change'.
If there's any strengths that I have – and I have a lot of weaknesses – one of the strengths I have is I've always been in different areas, not in finance, but I've always been pretty determined to do something. Like when I put my mind to it, like I was really into sports growing up.
I was the kid that was getting up before school to practice and I really put my mind to it so I just remember thinking that. This is it I'm going to do whatever it takes. We're going to find out how to do this and go from there.
The crazy thing was, and the embarrassing and crazy was that when the car was repossessed, things were bad. Yes, of course. But the car didn't need to get repossessed. That was more due to just complete disorganization.
Cause I remember we needed to come up with some money to get the car out of, out of a place where they, where they put it. You know, and, and we were able to, so it was like we had to pay more money than ever because now we had to pay all these fees.
So that was a real, like kick to the gut because we were already struggling now and I'm sure people listening can relate.
It's like, when you know, you're already kind of feeling like you're hitting rock bottom and you get pushed down further. It's sucked. I can't, I can't sugarcoat it, but we had the money.
We were able to pull it from somewhere and get the car.
Elle Martinez: Yeah.
Billy Hofacker: So we had the money to get the car out. We had the money to make those payments, or at least one of the payments. I didn't even know that that was like a possibility.
You would think that I would be like worried the car's going to get taken, but it wasn't even a thought in my mind.
I was just like all of a sudden the guy's on the stoop and that's just shows you how much we were sweeping the dirt under the floor.
Overcoming Hurdles to Improving Your Finances and Fitness
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I can totally relate to that. And I think a lot of people can too this past year and a half, it's going to be almost two years have dealt with different things.
Even if you were financially, set in terms of savings, there's still a lot of uncertainty stress.
I noticed that a lot of families in our community talked about, they felt it with their finances and honestly like fitness stress, they wanted to work out. They didn't have time. They just kind of felt like, I guess you can say physically disorganized with things.
Now they're working from home now. They got to create this space and now there's no boundaries.
So, they're starting out this year like, I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. They have big goals, I want to get healthy and I want to get financially fit.
Sadly the majority of the time after a month or two, it kind of fizzles out. From your side since you seen both, what are some of the mistakes or habits or the hurdles that people face with?
Billy Hofacker: Yeah, that's good. There's so many parallels. I would like to point out if you'll let me later on.
As far the hurdles that are common between the fitness and the finance side is people they get excited and I think a lot of times we base it too much off of our feelings. So we'll say, you know, I don't feel like getting up and I'm not trying to sound like I have it all together.
Cause, I can have the same issue, but I'll give you a good example like this morning I was up at 4 45 to work out at five. And did I I feel like it?
I'll tell you that it would've been much nicer to stay in bed a little bit longer. I think when we just base it off, how we're feeling that works in the beginning, cause you're kind of feeling excited.
Maybe you're seeing some initial changes and with both fitness and finance, both of them, you tend to see some initial changes. Like it may not be a huge weight loss, or you might not become a millionaire right away, but you're going to start seeing things change.
You're going to start seeing maybe a little less money spent or a little more safe, or you're gonna start seeing maybe a little more energy, a little more clothes feeling better.
This is normal. So as you're listening, just remember that it's normal. It is not normal to go on a straight line to success.
Building Better Systems
Billy Hofacker: I like to tell people it's never happened. It's interesting that we all think like we're going to be the first person that we just start something. We never have any problems. And then we all, we get to the top of the mountain. That's just not how it works.
You can talk to anybody. Elle you've had tons of guests and I've had tons of successful clients. They all have had the hurdles. I think it's preparing ourselves that there are going to be these problems in these hiccups.
It's not about being perfect. It's giving ourselves grace and it's just being consistent most of the time, rather than just basing things off of, you know, how I feel today? I don't feel I do my budget. I don't feel like working out.
It's that's just the person that I am. I'm the type of person that organizes my finances, even when I don't feel like it.
I'm the type of person that gets up in the morning, even when I don't feel like it, because until we can create that identity with ourselves and another probably leads to other thoughts, like how do we do that?
Adapting Your Habits Towards Better Goals
Elle Martinez: There's a lot of things that you've touched upon that I find interesting, especially in terms of like mindset and, and having those habits and it doesn't have to be dramatic. I know there's this desire to have dramatic results.
If you're someone who doesn't work out or haven't had time to, then you're saying, oh, I'm going to work out like one hour, five times a week.
You're setting yourself up for failure. You saw my little setup here. This is that a necessity. I get up at five and get my coffee. I do my reading in the morning to kind of mentally set myself. And then before I start work, I trick myself.
I tell myself 10 minutes with the kettlebells. It doesn't usually doesn't end, you know, 10 minutes, but just at least do 10 minutes get that started.
I've noticed a difference those days where I keep it. I feel better. Like you have already had a win for the day, so it's all connected with the mindset.
I want to talk to you about that a little bit more. How were you either on the financial side or with fitness? How do you get those habits?
How do you build that mindset? Little by little, because I know willpower will only get you so far. Like you said, there's some days where you just don't want to do it.
Billy Hofacker: Absolutely. I think what was interesting for me was that I kind of had that dialed in. I was a competitive martial artist and I was an athlete growing up.
So I kind of had that dialed in with the, with the fitness side and it's kind of frustrating. It's like, why can't I be like this in this other area?
The truth was I was able to, so that's just encouragement for everybody is that you, 100% can do it. It's just a matter of just using those same skills in one area, because everybody's good at something, right.
Nobody's listening. And like you're either a good parent or you're good in business, or you're good with your fitness or you're good with your finances.
It's just kind of using those same skills and learning them in a new area. [Its] also being willing to get some help, because there's somebody that can help you.
Accountability Can Boost You Towards Your Money Goals
Billy Hofacker: There's somebody like you, that somebody like myself, there's somebody out there. It could be a book, it could be coaching, whatever it is that is powerful because now you're going to get somebody else's insight, somebody else's guidance, somebody else's accountability.
We all just do better when we're together, rather than trying to do it on our own.That's one of the hurdles that I didn't get to is that we try to go it alone.
You said what, what can you do to make it easier when you don't feel like it? What if you had somebody that was meeting and that you cared about, you actually cared what they thought of you and they were going to meet you?
It could be a personal trainer that you pay for, or it could be a financial coach that you pay for, or it could be a friend that you're going to, it could be going for a walk.
It could be a spouse, it could be a child going for a bike ride, but somebody is depending on you to be there. I'm going to say there's a dramatic increase in the chance that you'll show up.
One of the I'll give a couple of book references. One is atomic habits and the other is the slight edge, which both of those kind of point to the idea of the little things and talking about habits and there's tons of good books, but those two have a lot of practical tips.
One of them from atomic habits is when it's something that you want to do to make it easy.
So here's an example. I got up today at 4 45. So what I did was I laid every single thing out that I needed.
I went everything from my clothes to my shoes, to the cup that I'm going to use for my water, like everything. So when I got up there wouldn't be an excuses. Oh, I can't find my socks.
You know what? I'm going back to bed. So you just, you just do the, you just, you just make it as doable as possible.
The opposite is true. If you want to avoid doing something, then you make it hard. So you make it hard to do the thing that you don't want to do. So when it comes to fitness or health, if you want to avoid eating chips, willpower's overrated.
Like you said it only goes so far, but if I come home after a stressful day and there's a bag of Doritos on the table, guess what's going to happen? I don't care how much willpower I have I'm going to crush that bag of. Where as what would happen if there was a bowl of apples on the table?
When I w I would just as easily eat the apple, because I'm making the thing, that's that I don't want to do, I'm making it hard and I'm making the thing that I want to do. I'm making it easy.
Make Time for Money Dates
When it comes to finances, it's the same thing like, I know you specialize in working with couples, and that's one thing that we do is we try to make it simple and easy for us to work on our finances.
One of them is we do a monthly date where we talk about these things and we try to, you know, make it, do what we make it more realistic by. We put it in the calendar. So if it's not in the calendar, It's not going to happen so we made sure that we put it there.
We make sure that we do it when we're not exhausted. We make sure that we prioritize it.
We try to make, maybe we'll do it over a glass of wine or something to make it more enjoyable because yeah, if you're going to constant, there's something to the fact of, we just got to do hard stuff and it's good for us at the same time.
If we're constantly just doing all these hard things and never enjoying anything it's, it's going to be hard to be.
Focus on Keystone Habits
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. I talk a lot on the podcasts about those money dates and for us, it's awesome. It's just a good rhythm. We're parents to two kids.
The schedule gets full very quickly, but it's nice to set aside time. I think initially, everyone's kind of getting used to it that how do you talk about it and plan for it, but now it just, it feels easier.
We automate so much of the bill payments to transfers, you know, the investments. Now we can actually talk about the goals. Are we going on vacation, the next winter break, or are we going to be setting aside money for a house project or upgrading the basement office?
Those little changes definitely add up. So many things I want to talk about, but I do want to talk about Brazilian jujitsu. I did TaeKwonDo for a few years, got my black belt as well.
I think there's also a parallel there, which is some people feel like they got to get everything right in the beginning. They'll see on television or, you do MMA or are part of a gym that does that?
Billy Hofacker: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I've had two fights and I had been doing Brazil Jitjitsu for a long time.
Hone in on the Foundational Skills
Elle Martinez: Yeah. And same thing. Like sometimes people will see those stories wherever they catch their news where someone's retired in five years or someone's done this and they see the end and so they immediately want to jump in there.
When you're a white belt, I don't know the belt progression with Brazilian jujitsu. You really on the fundamentals. You may not even see the connection. The more advanced techniques, but you can't do those things until you get the foundation.
What do you consider kind of the foundations for you as you were becoming debt free and then also with fitness, for those that are also trying to get back into better healthy habits?
Billy Hofacker: Yeah. I think even going back to some of your other questions about the roadblocks or the hurdles, I think a lot of times we, we overcomplicate things.
Brazilian jujitsu; I can't remember the quote. I'm not going to do it justice. But it can be so complex and like a lot of things like that, like boxing is like that, right? It's like boxing is probably a better example because you got a few punches, right? You have a jab, a hook across an uppercut, you know, maybe some others stuff like that.
But it's like the sweet signs. Like there's also so many different ways to do it. And so many ways to put it together where the fundamentals are just getting better and better at the basics. That's going to be the number one thing for all of us.
A lot of us are looking for, the new plan, maybe if I read this, this new book that I heard about, I'll find like the real secret, or maybe if I listened to this podcast episode, I'll find out like the trick to get my money situation, right.
Or I'll find the diet that can help me to drop weight quickly or the insane exercise program.
I'm a huge believer on the fundamentals. The same thing with jujitsu. It's like first you got to learn the position. There's a saying that says position before submission, and it's just learning proper position.
What's the posture that I need to learn and practice so that I can defend myself? I can protect myself. That's the first, if I want to survive. If we can kind of compare that to finances, it's some of these basic things that everybody talks about.
What's my current situation? Where am I at? We call it doing an inventory. Maybe it's a net worth score, or maybe it's credit, or maybe it's your savings rate, or maybe it's your debt, how much you have?
That's the basics, how many people, they just don't even know myself included. I didn't know the answers to those.
I didn't know the answer to any of those questions. So for me to like start with some crazy plan, it just wouldn't have made sense. I have to get the basics. So once I have the basics, I know how to defend myself.
I can start getting a little bit more on the offense, you know, so I guess with finances, you have the defensive things, right? You want to make sure you have your insurance in place. Make sure if you have loved ones, you want to have that life insurance, you want to make sure you're, you're prevent, you're preventing like a catastrophic situation from, you know, from really ruining you.
You get some of those things in place and you can start playing more offense, you know, it might be looking at your your, your income and, and where that's going, you know, and what your goals are. Setting goals is another huge one for a foundational principle, whether it's fitness.
There's like two schools of thought. There there's one school of thought that goals are overrated. And I do, I do see the I'm a big goal-setter. So I'll just get that out of the way. But there is some truth to if you're, if you're so focused on a goal, sometimes it can, it can be counterproductive because we've all seen people that my goal is I had a guy like this. My goal is to get out of this. And then they get out of debt and they don't handle it correctly from there.
And then they end up going back into debt because they didn't really secure those habits and insecure that identity and same thing with fitness. Like my scariest client is the one that says, I just have a wedding coming up or I have a vacation coming up and I just need to lose 10 pounds for the vacation.
And all I could think of is yeah, and then what happens after the vacation? Right? Cause that's, that's where your sole focus.
Other school of thought is you just need to work on the things like, just do the habits. Don't even set a goal. Just start, just start tracking your spending, start doing a budget start and eventually you'll get there.
I think both points have some good in them and I believe in both, I think it's good to set goals. I just think you need to be hyper aware that once you set a goal, you can be very intentional, very focused. Once you hit that goal and I've made this mistake is you forget to celebrate and you just think about the next thing and then you never get the real joy out of it, because it's always about the next goal.
It's finding that balance of setting a goal, working towards it, enjoying the journey because success is the journey, not the destination.
You are successful when you start doing those habits. When Elle gets up at five in the morning to do her kettlebell workout, she's successful. I don't care if she's at her goal and how much he wants to lift or anything like that.
She's successful because she's taking those steps just like you're successful. When you're doing your money dates, and when you're doing your, we call it a spending plan or when you're tracking your spending, you are successful.
Learning that pattern of setting a goal, celebrating, and then setting a new goal. It's an interesting kind of balance.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. Oh my goodness. I feel like we can keep going on about this, but I am curious because you've mentioned we talked about the parallels between the two of finances and fitness. What is that difference that you've noticed?
Billy Hofacker: Yeah. So I, when I talked, I told you the one, and then I thought of another one. You actually triggered the thought when you said about automation.
I would say that this is just a slight difference that I thought, I think you can automate certain things in each area. It's probably a little bit more difficult to automate the fitness. I just feel like, with finances you can set up your automatic transfers, you can set up your automatic payments.
Well, the fitness, there's nothing that's going to be able to get out of that bed and into that, into that gym.
But that's not the one I was mentioning before this one. I don't know what it is about this. I just find it like so fascinating. It's that when someone's working out, you generally can tell like the average person who has a healthy lifestyle, they kind of look the part, right?
That guy probably works out. He got some muscular arms or that woman probably works out. She's pretty lean or she looks strong.
Where with finances, when you look at somebody, you really can't tell. In fact, it's almost the reverse, the person who looks like they're successful financially, usually isn't as much because by the very definition we look at people who are doing a lot of things.
They're going on a lot of vacations. They haven't like a lot of nice cars and a big house. So it looks like they have a lot of money, but in fact, just by the them, having those things, they have less money because they had to pay for those things.
Whereas the person who made. It's like the millionaire next door. Maybe they don't go on a lot of vacations and they may be way wealthier than that other person. So you really can't see how somebody is doing financially.
Of course you might get an idea, but I just find that so interesting.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. It is fascinating because it just changes your perspective about things. Just like with health and fitness, it's about a balance. You have four kids. You're a
Billy Hofacker: father of four. I'm a father of four, but I have to mention, we also have a dog. We just got a dog.
Elle Martinez: okay. So you have a full house. So it's all about that balance. It's getting fit yes, your own health, but also, so you can live a better life, a happier life.
It's good about getting your finances in a good spot. But it's not just, just to accumulate money and savings and investments, but actually spend it, when you have to, to enjoy life, to have that financial freedom, which is the topic of your new book that came out this year.
So I know, thank you. I know there are people listening that want to learn more from you and find out more about what you're doing. What's the best way they can and pick up your new book?
Billy Hofacker: Thanks so much for letting me share that. I would say. A few places. You can just get the book right on. Amazon is called fitness profits. And again, it's Billy Hofacker. So you get the book there. I also have my own podcast, which I'd love people to check out. it's called your fit is money coach podcast.
I would say that's especially good for people. There's anybody listening who is really into fitness or they are, maybe they're interested in becoming a fitness trainer or they are a fitness trainer, or they know a fitness trainer and that's good.
And I have a website too, but those are, those are good places.
Okay, let me, can I just share one more thing?
Elle Martinez: Yeah, go right ahead.
Comparison Robs You of Joy and Results
Billy Hofacker: One other point, I think it's worth mentioning with the pitfalls and the commonalities are something that is so detrimental and I've done all of these pitfalls.
I'm talking to myself as well, but you mentioned before, like we look at the black belt and we look at the millionaire, we look at the person who's totally fit and we're comparing like ninth grade.
Let's say, you know, with our third inning and not that it even matters. Even if it was your both of your ninth inning, it still doesn't make any sense.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Eleanor Roosevelt said, and I think it just takes a lot of our joy away when we're comparing ourselves to others. That's a huge pitfall with finances.
You don't know how people are doing anyway; probably not what you think People are posting the things they want you to see on social media.
The other quote I heard is that we're comparing, our reality with their highlight reel. So it's just kind of stay focused, stay in your lane and just really worry about the people that you care most about.
Not these people that yeah, you may care about, but you really don't have those, those, those deep relationships with them and just stay in, stay in your own.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I appreciate that and that's a great note to end on because we're there to support each other in the community.
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Learn how one couple creatively used house hacking to pay off their students loans faster!
Paying Off You Debt Faster By Thinking Outside the Box
Welcome back! It's the first week of a new year and I have a question to ask you – how many times have you seen the phrase new year, new you already?
How does that make you feel as you're planning out what you're going to do in 2022?
While I hope you're energized and enthusiastic about your family and financial goals that you want to tackle this year, I can also understand if you're a bit frustrated by all the hype about how important it is to hit the ground running.
Honestly, I kind of feel the same way.
I've been writing about that intersection of personal finance with family and marriage for over a decade.
Every year as we talk about setting and achieving your goals, there are certain patterns that I see happen over and over again.
The biggest one is how few people are actually hitting their goals.
While most people start off optimistic about how things are going to go, many times they burn out before they hit their actual goal.
There are many reasons for that and of course, these last two years have thrown a lot of people for a loop, with COVID in the fallout from that.
However, I think a core reason why people aren't able to tackle their goals is how they approach it.
A few episodes before we wrapped up the year, I was talking about setting up those pieces, building those better habits- making sure that your goals are smart, very specific in that you work backwards to break it down into small steps.
Finding a System That Works for You
Those are key components, but there's another ingredient when it comes to not just making your goals but sticking with it and being consistent. That's finding a sustainable system that makes sense for you and your situation.
I see too many families get very focused on this specific of how. For example, when paying off debt – should we use the debt snowball, avalanche or lasso? The answer is it depends.
It depends how much debt you have.
It depends on how much extra income you have right now to put towards that debt.
It depends on the type of debt you have – high interest or low interest.
All these different factors mean that different families will have different approaches. When I have interviews on hereon the podcast. I want to give you models, not necessarily a map.
The map is what you do. You create this destination that you want to achieve. You can then take the habits or systems or ideas from others and hopefully make it your own. You'll then be more likely to stick and be consistent with the process and see it through two, you hit that goal.
So all this month, we're going to do things a little bit different. Yes, we're going to be talking about families that have hit some great goals together and get into the process of how they did that.
More importantly, though, we're going to be digging into how they were able to find a system that fits them and their season of life.
One of the most important steps is to address and acknowledge where you are now with your financial journey. Then you can see which tools would be best for your situation. So that you can achieve whatever goal you're pursuing.
Another piece of that puzzle. Is to find a process that you enjoy.
If you are trying to tackle a big goal, say you have a mountain of debt to pay off. Or you're trying to get a house down payment put together. Chances are it's not going to happen overnight. So again, that consistency's important. But to stick with it, you have to feel motivated. And one of the best things you can do is find a process that you think is enjoyable.
She and her husband had the big goal of paying off their student loans and cashflowing her degree. It took some creativity as you heard in the teaser because they had to find money in their budget somehow.
They went for a big win and did some house hacking. Not only were they able to save and pay off debt; they had a little bit of an adventure along the way!
In this episode, we're going to get into:
why going for big wins in your budget can be a game changer
some unconventional ways you can slash your housing expenses
skills that you may already have that can save and make you money.
Elle Martinez: You were trying to pay off student loans, which I know is on the minds of a lot of them in the community, but also debt in general. You and your husband, Eric took an unconventional route, especially when it comes to housing.
So before we jump into how you did that, can I ask who started that conversation and who came up with that idea?
Jillian Sirianni: Which one of you is crazier? That's what I want to know. Oh,Elle first of all, I love the theme that you're pulling out. Thinking outside the box, because I think that that is the primary component.
When we're looking at really slashing debt or getting at other financial goals. A lot of times it does take thinking outside the box and moving past some of the limiting beliefs or mindset that we have. Some things are more attainable for some than others so I think there's permission and there's ways for all of us to find ourselves on this journey and what fits for us.
So to answer your question of who's the greatest fear on it? I think for my husband and I, we kind of are neck and neck with that. I don't know that I could fully say who actually ended up making the final call.
But I do remember when we were considering well, before we even considered tiny living, we were looking at boats and motor homes. Not for us.
We were not, we were poor by a lot of standards. We were on vacation. Family and they were talking about, oh, wouldn't it be fun as an extended family to have a used boat that we can share in the summer times together.
So my husband loves to scour Facebook marketplace and Craigslist at the time. Although we don't use that as much anymore, it's gotten a little more sketchy.
In that process, as he was kind of scrolling through, it was looking over his shoulder and seeing these motor homes and realizing whoa, That's everything you need. Why would that need to be just for vacation? What if we were to consider living in it?
So I think it was kind of this, he was looking at it. I was looking over his shoulder and we both add this. What if question? And then that turned into reality. Yeah.
Is Downsizing Your Home Right for You?
Elle Martinez: So can you kind of give me an idea, the general timeframe of having that conversation? Because I think all of us get inspired.
I know for me, I look at the tiny homes and maybe not the super tiny homes, but this idea simplifying and kind of paring down the things we don't need. How did that go from, this is a good idea to let's try this out?
Jillian Sirianni: For us, we move relatively quickly so I would say it was only couple of months before we ended up pulling the trigger on a motor home. Now, granted that was because of life, stage and obligation and responsibility.
We were renting at the time, month to month at this point so we weren't locked into. We don't have kids didn't have kids at the time so we were able to make a shift relatively quickly. It really was just a matter of finding the right deal, finding a good fit for us.
That is the case a lot of times, especially when you're buying used to kind of got to be able to jump on the deal as you find it.
My husband, thankfully, he knows a lot about motorhomes and found a really great one for us and we within a couple of months, bought it pared down, moved in, did that life.
Elle Martinez: That sounds exciting, but I want to take a step back cause I know you definitely saved money. A lot of times when we were doing financial goals and family decisions, there's a little bit of melding and the layers kind of get tangled up.
So were you trying to simplify and saw that this was one way you could do it and save money to use, to pay down the debt? Or were you thinking, we got to pay down the debt. Let's look at these big expenses. What can we change? How did that work out?
Jillian Sirianni: That's a great question. For us, it was definitely looking at the numbers, not only paying down debt, but at the time I was in a place in my career and educational goals where I was seeing an opening to go and earn my master's degree.
When we looked at the numbers and our earnings it just didn't line up, and we said, ‘we've got to find somewhere'. That's one of the things that caused us to look at well, what are our biggest expenses? We lived pretty simply before that. I don't know if I would have described myself as a minimalist at the time, but simply, frugally, absolutely.
In that slow going process of paying down debt on very small incomes. We saw as an opportunity to really cut back on a major expense living expenses due for most people represented usually about 30% of our incomes and so if we could slash that, what an amazing opportunity.
So a lot of people, when they saw us do that, their first question was, well, where are you traveling to? And that wasn't the case. That wasn't the goal.
We did do some traveling, but for us, it was living within our means. We wanted to be able to afford our housing and be able to pay down debt and save and potentially earn my master's degree, which by the way I did do as a result of that motor home.
I know it's such a celebration, but that was the reason and that was the, as you said, Elle thinking outside the box, then that we thought, oh, well, we're already just renting and it's very inexpensive rent, but we found a way to slash that even for.
Look for Big Wins in Your Budget
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. You bring up a good point. It's like, what's our circumstances at that time?
Every family is different where they are in their season of life, but I really appreciate that you were willing to look at all of the expenses.
I talk about this on the podcast a lot. I said, yes, you know, it's good to save $5, $10 here and build some good habits, but to have some huge wins, like. Housing, big expense transportation, if they have a car payment and food, like those are the three biggies. If you could get those under control or somehow optimize that, not that you can coast with everything, but it's so much easier.
So kudos on just putting that and keeping that on the table to discuss, even if you didn't decide to go that route.
Jillian Sirianni: Yeah and as you mentioned too Elle fun, like cool, to be able to have this experience and be able to see the actual big win and our finances as a result of this decision, but also learning along the way and things that we're able to implement as a result. We had a lot of other even non-traditional living experiences even from there.
I will say at this point it might come up later, but own and live in a home. It's a small home, but this wasn't for eternity and I think that that's a big misnomer about tiny living that it has to be for forever, or this is a lifetime decision now.
I think even not having a limiting belief in that regard, that I could just do this temporarily to get at a financial goal and then make changes from there based on life situation and my desires that next juncture in the road.
Elle Martinez: Absolutely. You mentioned you had to pair down. Yeah. So first of all, how big are we talking about this, RV, this motor home space was and how much pairing down did you have to?
Jillian Sirianni: So we went from an apartment that was probably about 1200 square feet so not massive, but two bedrooms, big living space, full kitchen, everything you would imagine there to about 800 square feet in that first motor home that we lived in. So relatively big, it had slide outs and. Yeah, it was a good size motor home, I would say, but it was quite the process.
Thankfully, I had moved a lot of times before that, so I became pretty good at understanding what that's going to take, but I, I definitely made throughout our transition time of what am I donating? What am I selling? And what am I taking? And actually there's a fourth category of storage.
We did end up taking out a small part of my parents' attic to put some things that we imagined we might need eventually this may not be an eternal life decision that we live in 800 square feet so let's put some things aside, so we don't have to rebuy them years down the road.
So those four different categories found their homes in four different locations throughout the house. And it really was quite an exercise of identifying and really paying attention to my lifestyle throughout those couple of weeks of what am I using most often? What might be necessary and what's not what is not going to be able to fit? And isn't going to actually have value or benefit to my life in a tinier situation.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. I know sometimes that can be difficult. Like this past year, my mom moved, she's getting closer to retirement. She wants to be with the grand babies so she's rightsizing her house.
She had a nice space, but now she realizes she still wants to have people over. But she had to kind of do that inventory of like the stuff that she had. How often does she use it? Does she want to keep it? Does she want to give it to her friends? Sell it? Like you mentioned, temporarily she stored it just until she knew for sure that this was something she wanted to keep or not. It is the process.
You mentioned your motorhome was used. So be honest with you, was it moving ready or did you guys have to update that or did you do any customizing?
Jillian Sirianni: It was move in ready, quote unquote, but dated. So my husband and I in a previous. I would say life we've been married almost 10 years now, and we've had different side hustles together throughout our marriage. One of which was home renovations.
So we actually had a small business doing renovations for people. It's something we enjoy doing. It's a fun thing for us to do together so we did do quite the overhaul of this motor home. Did our own renovations.
It wasn't necessary, but we wanted to make that little space beautiful and our own so we certainly did our own renovations.
I mean, I'll be Frank about numbers. We were able to purchase it for $18,000 and we put a couple thousand dollars into it and ended up selling it at a profit. We made about $12,000. Yeah. Yup. Great. And that's how we were able to cash flow. My master's degree was through the sale of that motor home then eventually. So it did, it did. I mean, we –
Elle Martinez: get a home for 18,000 now.
Jillian Sirianni: We were able to say we own our home. Just within our means. And at the time, I mean, I'm a social worker, so you can imagine what my salary has been that, but
Elle Martinez: I do love that because it allow you to pursue a career that's meaningful for you, you know? And you do it on your terms.
You lived in another motor home and you tried some other, can you tell me a little bit of those adventures and how that went?
Jillian Sirianni: Sure. I'll take you a little bit on the quick snapshot of the journey. It was the larger motor home and then we moved into and house sat in a log cabin.
So a couple who was nearing retirement, but final years of work and they needed to. I go work in England, but yet they didn't want to sell their home or rented. They just wanted it taken care of. And so us moving into that log cabin allowed us to sell the motor home, but still live rent, free cash master's degree.
Yes. Amazing. From there, we moved in with my grandmother who has dementia and wanting to prolong her ability to be in her own residence for as long as possible. So we then moved in with her. Of course, that was rent-free, but we cared for her. So there was a lot of exchange there yeah. In the caretaking role.
And then from there we bought and lived in a trailer. So the pull behind, not the vehicle version, but a pull-behind trailer. That was the biggest downsize at 170 square feet.
It was so good though. And then sold that and the sale of that was our down payment on our current home.
We are now homeowners and live in St. Petersburg, Florida, but that was the kind of non-traditional living situation that we were in for about four years .
Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's fantastic. If you don't mind me asking, how did you learn about that house sitting? Was that like a friend of a friend or in your network?
Jillian Sirianni: It was within our network. Yes. So it was a friend who knew that we were the type of people who might be open to something like that. Flexible and able to live in someone else's home.
I will say that's not for the faint of heart. And I did learn a lot through that, both in living in the log cabin, as well as with my grandmother, what it is to live in a space where you don't have any of your own things. Right. And I didn't have my own towels. My own dish were my own home goods, but am I able to be content and live in an instant.
Where nothing of it is mine, but I'm able to still make a home there and be content. And my goodness did that teach me so many things that I've now carried over into my own home.
But that, that was through friends or friends however, anyone interested in it absolutely is available to people. There are websites that help connect those who are looking for house sitters with how cities, many people find themselves in those situations where they don't want to rent it.
They don't want to sell their home. They just want it taken care of. So, it's, it's not only for those who have connections.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, but I think it also goes to show that when you take those first steps, your network knows oh, they're willing to try something different.
I think most people their loved ones want to help them out so communicate your goals. Like, Hey, we're trying to tackle debt or, Hey, we're doing this being up you know about your goals.
You never know what opportunities can pop up. Cause I think that's something we overlook or we think loud. I don't want to talk about like, you know, I'm cutting back because I'm, you know, trying to pay off this debt or I'm trying to save up for a house down payment, but if you put it out there, a lot of people will support it.
Jillian Sirianni: It can feel daunting, but I think it's such a good tip Elle to, in anything, right? Whether we're looking for work or we're trying to reach financial goals, or we need a housing situation, I think exploring our own community and telling people that I think sometimes it can feel uncomfortable and maybe even taboo for whatever reason.
But man, do I admire my friends who send me their resumes and say, Hey, I have no expectation here, but if you hear of anything, let me know. So many times it has worked out that, okay. Maybe not in the immediate moment, but now I know so-and-so is looking for something and, and I can help out in that way. So utilizing our own community, I think that's great. Absolutely agree.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know for us, it was that stage where we were saving up for a house and we just put it out there. We love to eat that's our socializing, but we needed to save money and it actually was so beneficial. We didn't realize that that time we had friends who were already homeowners and they're like, let's do some potluck.
Let's get out of that rut of going out and meeting somewhere and let's go to each other's places and they realized like, you know, we could save some money. This is always good. Uh, upped our kitchen game with cooking years later. You don't know until you put it out there.
Everyone has a talent and I think most people want to share, you know, if I can help them out, I'll help them out. If there's an opportunity that they think that could, help me, they do that. But if you keep it to yourself, if you're not sharing your, your goals or what you're looking towards, it's hard for people to, you know pitch in.
Jillian Sirianni: It's an untapped form of wealth and capital. If I can even put it that way of when we might find ourselves limited and finances, well, what else do we have available to us?
Who's in our community. How can we utilize friendships with reciprocity? I'm not just saying. Take advantage of, but you might find that others are in a similar place and there's so much that can be gained through relationship and given, and we all desire that that reciprocity and relationship that we don't have to.
I know I described myself as, you know, Poor by some standards, when we moved into our motor home, but also rich and wealthy by others because we did have an amazing community of friends and family. And so I think recognizing that there is more to it than just what's in the bank account.
Elle Martinez: Yes. And I think a lot of people want to share their talents too. Like you mentioned, think outside, that box of only helping financially, maybe there's a talent or something we could swap with each other where it's mutually beneficial.
If someone's listening and they're thinking, you know what, I'm not sure if I want to do the motorhome thing, but I love this idea of trying something different.
Even if it's temporarily, like you mentioned, what are some life lessons or tips you would suggest?
Jillian Sirianni: Absolutely. And again, there's freedom in this not one person's journey needs to be everybody's journey, but I think we don't talk enough about the intersection of our finances with minimalism simple living.
Uh, eco sustainability. And I think that is something that I did learn more about through my non traditional tiny living experiences that I think can be passed on without actually doing something drastic. And so I think even the message of what can we scale back on? Where can we simplify even where in our current lives with how.
Now looks, where can we declutter and free up mental space and energy within our homes? Where can we cut back on some of the mindless spending? I know for me, that prior to moving into tiny living, I love thrift store shopping and yard. I still do like that, but I will say I did it almost as a hobby or weekend activity.
Whereas when I moved into a tiny home, it's like I can't just bring in things, even if it's inexpensive things, I don't have space for it. I think just being more intentional and mindful about what we're spending money on, even if it's inexpensive, even if you have room for it, Do you need it?
Does it serve a purpose? Is it going to help you towards a financial goal? So I think some of these learnings we can implement, even if our current circumstances aren't forcing us to live super small. I also think that just aiming more at that values-based spending, really identifying what's important to us.
Where are our values? How can we make sure that our spending and saving aligns with our values? And where it doesn't the freedom and permission to get rid of that thing. That I don't have to do that even if other people are doing it, people think I should be doing it. I think I should be spending on it.
If I don't actually enjoy it or value. Yeah, there's there's room to adjust our lifestyles. Again, not needing to do something incredibly drastic. And I just think intentional living, we w there are components of what I walked through that I think anybody could implement to varying degrees somewhere along that spectrum.
I think at the end of the day, also looking at what we deem fixed expenses. I think sometimes we just blow past rent, transportation bills, mortgage, you name it because that's fixed. Those are the bills. Now what else? Let me cut coffee. Okay, great. But like you said, L that's not gonna help us long-term cut debt. Really have those big wins that we want to have.
Thinking outside the box, looking at those fixed expenses again, doesn't mean you've got to move into a motor home, but where might there be room? Maybe we're stuck in a mortgage that is super massive. It doesn't align with our values anymore. Kids are out of the house.
I love the term you used for your mom sizing for her current lifestyle. Maybe. Super important. So you don't need a large house anymore and downsizing or whatever capacity that that means. Or maybe you no longer need two vehicles and one vehicle will do it for you. Or maybe we could flip the whole thing all together and you've got room to host people on your property.
You could be the place where other park their motor home or tiny house, or you've got something to rent out on your property and thereby gain community, but also earn more money. So I think, again, we think outside the box on these massive things, and we might find room for ourselves. I think just people often myself included.
We need permission to do that. We need somebody to kind of. AHRQ the fire to think, well, what is available to me with the resources that I currently have?
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love this and I am totally in agreement about value based spending. I know initially it's hard because you do, especially if you've dealing with these bills, you feel like they are all fixed in a way, like you're stuck with us.
But I think like that first step is, can you define the one or two, the few priorities that absolutely. You will never cut from your budget because they bring you that much joy or, you know, you would be miserable without it.
It took us a little bit of time, we did like little money challenges to figure out like, oh, okay. I definitely want to have this in my life or yeah, I really didn't care. But for you, I'm curious, kind of like to wrap things up, like if you had to summarize your must do's or your priorities, that absolutely your budget will support, what would you say those are?
Jillian Sirianni: Yeah. At this point in time and I think that there's room for that to change as life seasons change, but I've narrowed down that I think some of my highest values and priorities are community and our relationships, generosity and beauty.
I think most of what I spend on most, if not all, could be correlated to those top three values and priorities. And so again, what that means for me might shift but at this point it does include food. I am with you on that one.
I that doesn't always need to mean going out to eat, but sometimes it does definitely supplying food to other people. Hosting is the generosity and community piece.
We have a lot of people in our home and staying with us and, and the beauty piece is traveling. Right now for me, I really well COVID really did a number on me with
So thankfully I then moved to a place that I find beautiful and I live near the water. Right now, So means is renovating our home and making it a space that we find beautiful. And so those things I'm okay with spending on and we'll make room to spend on within reason. Of course, we've all got to look at our income and what we can afford and what makes sense for us, but that's where my money is going currently. And I'm thrilled for it.
Elle Martinez: That's exciting. That is fantastic. Now I know. Just scratched the surface because I feel like you have a ton of good stories. So if anyone's listening and they want to, learn more about you and those adventures and lessons learned, how can they do that?
Jillian Sirianni: Oh, you're so kind out Elle I have a podcast with my good friend and cohost Jen, the frugal friends. So you can listen to that anywhere you find podcasts. And also just our website for FrugalFriends podcast.com.
We've got all kinds of fun stuff going on. You can learn about it there and find our episode archive. I know you Al said you might link some episodes specifically about tiny living, but we did do a couple of spots on that.
Elle Martinez: I hope, and I feel like this will inspire families to, find what creative path makes sense for them at this stage of life to tackle those family and financial goals, because it should feel like an adventure.
I don't want anyone listening saying, I have to pay off debt in three years and I'm going to be miserable. No, you can have fun and take care of those financial goals. Thank you so much, Jillian. I'm so glad you came by.
Jillian Sirianni: Thanks Elle for having me. I love the message of freedom you're spreading. Thank you.
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