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HOW we paid off our mortgage on one income!

Last week I posted about WHY we chose to pay off our mortgage. Today’s post is about HOW we paid it off in six years on one income.

First, I should let you know I did some substitute teaching for about 5 months before we had children. So we were “double income” during that time, even though the amount I made certainly didn’t approach full-time employment.

On our honeymoon Scott and I read one of our wedding gifts: Total Money Makeover. After that we were sold on paying off our mortgage. But we thought: “How in the world are we going to do this on one income, and a teacher’s income at that?!”

One of the main principles I took away from the book is: “Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else.” Scott and I knew that if we were going to pay off our mortgage on one income we would have to do this! This became a mantra for me when I felt like a weirdo for not doing what everyone else was doing.

Here are ten things we did to “live like no one else” so we could put that extra money toward our mortgage. You’ll notice there are no fancy formulas or budgeting techniques. We simply lived in a way many others would consider extreme, and we still largely live this way today. I believe many people would consider our lifestyle extreme simply because we live in such an indulgent society.

1. We rarely ate out.

Perhaps twice per year and only when we were traveling more than four hours on the road. Usually we brought food with us. If we did go out for a birthday or anniversary we used a gift card. Making meals at home saves LOTS of money. I must admit one thing that helped us was having four children six and under. They didn’t eat much :).

2. We didn’t go big on holidays or birthdays.

For birthdays we buy one gift for each child, and have dinner and cake that I make. Scott and I don’t buy anything for each other on holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays. It’s a nice mutual agreement we have that keeps expectations and expenses low 🙂 For Christmas we let each kid buy their siblings a small gift and then we ask the grandparents to only buy one special gift for each child. Holidays can REALLY ADD UP. Our minimalist approach to toys saves lots of money. We buy the same types of toys but not a lot of different ones. Many kids have toys laying around they never play with! Figure out what toys your kids like and invest in those. Now that we paid our debt off we have invested more in quality toys.

3. We don’t go anywhere.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but if you ask some of our closest friends they would agree. We like to stay home which keeps the gas and automobile expenses to a minimum. Traveling is expensive. Even our honeymoon was free because my in-laws let us use their time share in Palm Springs. Save those “dream trips” for when your debt is paid off. Make it a reward!

4. We don’t go to the movies.

I think since Scott and I have been to the movies twice. The sort of spending involved with going to a cinema isn’t privy to paying off your house.

5. We talk about every purchase that isn’t food.

This is where I really experience the “live like no one else” mantra kicking in. I also think this is what has saved us the most money. If it’s a bucket, a piece of clothing for the kids, a bathmat, or any other non-food item, we talk about it. I am naturally a spender and my husband is naturally a saver. I know how to waste money like nobody’s business! This really forced me to consider what we buy. You would be amazed how little we really need and how many of our purchases are simply “wants” we like to call “needs.” The key is seeing being debt free as a need!

6.We hardly ever went out for coffee.

Starbucks is not a friend to those wanting to be debt free! If you get the average coffee five times per week, you will spend over a grand just on that drink. We splurged on unnecessary purchases like Starbucks VERY rarely. Books, concerts (we’ve actually never been to one), name brand fashion, CDs, DVDs, the latest and greatest tech stuff, etc. were all on our “unnecessary list.”

7. We rarely bought new clothes.

If we did it was often with a gift card. We have been very blessed with hand-me-downs. Yard sales are are also great.

8. We aren’t big decorators/home-improvers.

We don’t even paint the walls. We like to keep the house tidy but we don’t spend money on making it “prettier.” Although, lots more flex on this now that we don’t have any debt. Home improvements greatly increase the cost of “living.” We have the same furniture my husband had when I married him (including the dining room table and living room furniture). Yard sales, again, are a wonderful place to purchase home needs. Buying things just because you want something to LOOK better isn’t a good idea when you are trying to pay off your debt. After we paid our house off we got a recliner and that was quite a splurge (even though it was half off at Fred Meyer 🙂

9. We buy used cars.

A new car is a terrible investment. The second you drive your new car off the lot your car loses so much value it is crazy! We purchased three used vehicles in our ten years of marriage and probably put about 3,000 miles a year on each vehicle. (Refer back to number 3). We also purchased all of them with cash.

10. Neither of us have hobbies.

Hobbies cost money. Some hobbies cost a lot of money. My husband isn’t into cars, guns, music, but he likes to study the bible and that’s not expensive 🙂 He does like to workout but he has either done cardio at home or found a good deal on a gym. I don’t sew, do any sorts of crafts, paint, or have any animals. Animals are another expense. We’re not hobby people or animal people and this is another way we save money.


Basically, you would never hear us say: “It’s just five dollars!” Five dollars, one dollar, twenty dollars, all add up! All those fives and ones and twenties can go toward your mortgage and get you on your way to freedom from debt!

We did not pay twice monthly increments. We simply put ALL extra money toward our mortgage. For example, when I inherited $10,000, we didn’t think twice about using it for anything but our mortgage. ALL our tax returns (which averaged $6-7,000 per year) were put toward our mortgage.

For one year of our marriage Scott was working part-time as a youth pastor and full-time as a teacher. That was the most money we made in our marriage and again we took that as an opportunity to put all the extra cash toward our house.

So that’s how we paid off our house in six years on one income. It’s not easy “living like no one else” but it’s SO WORTH IT! Get your family in on it! Make living like no one else a family adventure! Ask your kids for ways that you can live that way and celebrate as a family when you pay everything off. Even talk about what fun trip you could possibly go on when you pay off your mortgage. 

Now that we are debt free we “break” rules one through ten occasionally. We’re also back to maxing our ROTHs each year for retirement. Our house that we paid off is now a source of income because we’ve had renters in there for the last few years.

None of this is to brag or boast. It is simply to encourage those who are thinking of living like no one else so that they can live like no one else.

One last thing, we were able to splurge recently on my husband’s book, Marriage God’s Way! Paying people to edit and design a book is not cheap! We were able to put money toward his book without worrying because we had gotten so used to saving. Check out his awesome, biblical book on marriage below!

Also, giving isn’t ALWAYS a good use of your money. Check out this post by my husband on that very thing. 

Here is a great post to share with your kids. Tip number three especially! 

Here are three sermons to listen to as a family! Each sermon has a family worship guide to go through too! It is so important the whole family is on board.

1) Finances Part 1: What to put off and put on.

2) Finances Part 2: Our Real Problem Is

3) Finances Part 3: Giving

Lastly, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I share daily different money saving tips for frugally minded mamas!

*this post contains affiliate links.

4 thoughts on “HOW we paid off our mortgage on one income!

  1. Wow, I thought we were dedicated, I am humbled by your example. I also am a teacher, but it took my wife and I about fifteen years to become debt free (we have hobbies). Now, we have no mortgage, student loans, car payments, utility bills such as electricity, water, sewer, or garbage (we live off grid and make our own electricity). You’re right it is a very freeing place to exist. Great post.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great post and I loved listening to Scott’s first message. Looking forward to the other two! I listen while I walk and get my steps in (free gym!).

    1. That’s great to hear Jean! Thanks for commenting!

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