Chasing Financial Freedom

Most of us dream of being debt free and retirement, am I right? 

In our society we are conditioned to pay for our mortgage over 30 years (no matter what age we start it) and most Americans have 5-6 year auto loans. Then all the credit card offers which get us into credit card debt, student loans, and for us add in medical debts too. Did you know that over 80% of Americans are in debt, and many of us don't know how to get out of it even though we have the best intentions too.

So why do we have all this debt? One of the biggest reason is we live in a world where our every move is documented on social media and it's easy for public image to become the most important thing, regardless of your actual financial status. The problem is, rarely are you seeing the actual life people show to the outside world. Are those people you admire living in a gorgeous home, traveling around the world, but also drowning in debt?

Mindset shift is the first thing that needs to happen if you truly want to work toward financial freedom. 

Let me just say we have tried so many different debt tool solutions. We have done the debt snowball and baby steps, we have lived paycheck to paycheck for a long time, and in the deepest part of Mia's health crisis we even ended up in bankruptcy. There was no light at the end of any tunnel for us. It was becoming uglier and uglier and our mindset at that time was just to make it each week.

Throughout the years we have been very vocal about Mia's health and struggles and gained a large following and met many amazing people along the way. You never know who just might be watching your journey and change that trajectory at anytime.

In July of 2020, just that happened for us. A friend reached out that we hadn't talked to since about 2013. He continued to tell me how Mia's story affected him personally and how it made him look at things in life differently including what he wanted for a career. He asked if I wanted to get together in person and catch up on all the things that had been going on in both our lives, as he kept up with us some on social media. So we planned to meet in August.

Little did we know, that meeting would start the chase to financial freedom for our family. Being completely transparent, on that date, we were $609,362 in debt. We had just built our home and moved in 2 months prior. Our home that we had owned since 2009 in our home town that was sold on contract ended up not selling and that home needed $30,000 in repairs from it being a rental for 6 years before it could be sold, and we were living paycheck to paycheck again. Paying 2 sets of house payments and utilities wasn't going to be sustainable long, but we knew if we could just make it through, the equity in that original home would make it worth it.

The August meeting came and during the visit this friend asked if our goals were still what they were back in 2013...... of course we always wanted to be debt free. We dove into deep conversations and this friend shared resources of how he had paid off his home in less than 3 years with no additional income and offered to walk us through the process to see if it's something that could work for us too. 

Needless to say, ours was super complicated and many hours were spent building spreadsheets, looking up information, and formulating the plan. The plan has led us do a debt free date of October 2027 (which is the month Mia turns 18). This actually could happen sooner, but being conservative on the spreadsheets was something I wanted to be sure we were doing.

Now we are one year into the process, and with no additional income our debt total is down 48%! Yes, almost cut in half in just one year!

So how did we do it?

We are attacking the items on the list by looking at what would make the biggest difference in our monthly cash flow vs looking at which balance is the smallest. The strategy is to make the most monthly impact. 

One piece to the larger part of the strategy was to establish a HELOC (home equity line of credit), so for our family, our mortgage is in Craig's name and auto loans are in my name. So we were also able to look at the list of debts and choose the things that would make the biggest impact to Craig's credit score. We watch our credit scores using the free version of Credit Karma.

The more cash flow you can create monthly, the more you can pay towards your mortgage which is going to save you tons of interest!

So far, we used that cash flow to pay off as many debts as possible. As of today, we only owe for our home, one car loan, one leased car, and one credit card left that is 0% interest until summer of 2022. 

Now we will begin using a HELOC as a checking account. All our income will go directly into paying the HELOC which is calculated using simple interest instead of amortized interest. We will then also pull from the HELOC anytime a payment is due. Our monthly costs of living such as utility bills, groceries, fuel, or any personal needs will all be paid using a credit card that gets us cash back. The credit card is paid in full each month. This stretches out the time to pay for all of those needs which increases the cash flow. There also will be no accrued interest on that credit card.

The cash back can be used toward the balance owed, but our family decided to use the gift card option. So each month we get over $100 in gift cards for stores of our choice. This allows me to purchase things such as home decor, clothing, toys for Mia, etc. 

One of the things that made all the other debt payoff plans not sustainable long term is that they always made you feel like you have to give everything up to make a difference in your debt. After living on this plan for a year, I can tell you I don't feel this way using this strategy. Both Craig and I set aside a specific dollar amount each month that we can spend how we choose. It's not always a lot, but I know if I want something larger, I can just save mine for a few months.

With the current debts we have left, we have chosen not to pay off our vehicles early. Craig's car has an interest rate of 3.9% so the interest cost for the life of the loan is only $4,987.16. So long term, we will save more money by paying extra on our mortgage.

Seeing the trajectory of what we have been able to accomplish in the last year has ignited a new passion for me. I want to help others chase the same financial freedom we are seeing, I am not a financial coach, but am happy to share with you on a personal level. If you are reading this and would like to set up a consultation to see if it could work for you, just send me a quick email to terra@raynedropoils.com.. I would be honored to help your financial legacy begin.







The 5th Grade Journey

The 5th Grade Journey
We have been a homeschool family since 2013 and loved it. During that time, Mia also was still doing 30-40 hours of ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy per week. So much has changed for her in the last year and there were some areas she was still struggling in. I had tried multiple curriculums to help her with reading, but the hurdle was still too high.

After the pandemic hit and public schools had to implement distance learning, a light bulb went off. She has always been a student who would be homebound (not in a school setting) due to her immune deficiency and numerous allergies, there would be no way to keep her safe in a school building, but years ago, the technology just wasn't there to provide the support she needed.

When we built our home and moved in 2020, I had heard that families move to our area just for the schools. After things got settled with everything that was going on in the world I decided I would reluctantly call the school system and see what they had to offer for Mia. I was very open with them of my concerns, past history of not good experiences, and hesitations about enrolling her. Much to my surprise, they were so open and willing to hear all of Mia's needs and see how they could meet them.

From September - December of 2020 we went through a series of academic assessments, trial assignments, and zoom sessions, we finally come to an IEP (individualized education plan) that met all of Mia's needs. She finished out 4th grade at Perry Worth Elementary with a lot of success. Her reading has vastly improved, and she was able to keep up with a 4th grade level of Math, Science, History, and Art. At the beginning of the year we were at a 3rd grade level.


After her first summer break ever, it was time to enroll for the 2021-2022 school year as a 5th grader. My stress level as a mom wasn't as high this year when it was time to enroll. She would still have the same support from her special needs teacher, speech therapist, and special needs classroom helpers. The only new person to join her team this year would be her 5th grade teacher.

Before all the kiddos went back to school we were able to plan a special trip for Mia to actually visit the school for the first time and meet her teachers, principal, and support staff in person for the very first time. We took a tour, was able to pick up her books for the year, and spend some time with her teacher for this year before school begins.


Mia is super excited for this year instead of being nervous. Her teacher loves video games, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and all the things that are super interesting or favorites of Mia.


I am excited to see her progress this year and so glad we have found somewhere that she is thriving.

I do not regret our homeschooling days, and I am open to going back to homeschooling if transitions to middle school or high school prove to be not supportive or difficult, but for this season, it's where she is thriving!

Steak Night

Steak Night
If you have been following us for a while, you know we don't eat out at restaurants due to all of our food allergies. Craig and I both enjoy watching cooking shows and then creating recipes in a way that we can eat them. Tonight was steak night in our house inspired by Hell's Kitchen.

 

Ingredients
1 - Filet Mignon
1 - Rib Eye
4 - Organic Russet Potatoes 
1 - Yellow Onion 
2 - Green Squash
1 - Package Organic Tomatoes 
1 - Bunch of Organic Asparagus 
1 Tablespoon -Grapeseed Oil 
4 - Cloves of Garlic
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Lemon Essential Oil
Black Pepper Essential Oil 
Primal Kitchen Steak Sauce 
Kerrygold Butter
Organic Dijon Mustard

Steaks

My filet was super thick, so Craig actually diced mine up before pan searing it on the stove. We added a drizzle of Grapeseed Oil, salt and pepper to the steak. Once finished, I like to add a few drops of Black Pepper Essential Oil.

His Rib Eye was pan seared on the stove with some KerryGold butter.


Veggies

Chop up your veggies and place into a mixing bowl. We used asparagus, squash, onion, and tomatoes. You can add any other veggies you like. We normally will add mushrooms too, but we were out this time. You will also mince up your garlic cloves. We are huge garlic lovers so feel free to decrease this amount if you desire.

Once all your veggies are chopped, add the minced garlic, drizzle with Grapeseed Oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss your veggies together or mix with your hands so they are mixed up and have an even coating of oil and seasonings.

I then transfer to a cookie sheet and bake in the oven along with the potatoes, but the veggies only need about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your knife cuts.


Baked Potatoes 

Wash your potatoes. We like putting ours into a metal mixing bowl, adding water and about 10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil and letting soak for about 10 mins. The lemon oil will clean the potatoes. After that 10 mins, you can rinse.

Once washed and rinsed. Wrap your potatoes in aluminum foil and bake at 450 degrees for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your potato. 

I topped my baked potato with Dayia Dairy Free Shredded Cheese.
Craig topped his with Kerrygold Butter.

Dijon Butter

I melted about 1 teaspoon of Kerrygold Butter for about 15 seconds and then added Dijon Mustard and stirred together with a fork until creamy.

About the Ingredients

Let's take an inside look at some of our ingredients and why they were chosen.

Organic Vegetables
We choose to always buy organic ingredients and grass fed beef. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives may find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods. Organic produce contains fewer pesticides.

Grass Fed Beef
In addition to being packed with B vitamins, grass fed beef has been found to be higher in vitamins A, E, and other antioxidants compared to grain fed beef. Grass-fed beef has significantly lower levels of saturated fat compared to grain-fed beef. In fact, the fat content of grass-fed beef can be compared to skinless chicken. Replacing saturated fat in grain-fed beef with the unsaturated fat in grass-fed beef has been proven to reduce your risk of heart diseases. Studies have also found that grass-fed beef contains more antioxidants than grain-fed beef. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage that can lead to serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Some people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease will also have symptoms with grain fed beef, I am one of those people.

KerryGold Butter
KerryGold butter comes from Grass Fed cows and is a great all purpose butter (if you eat dairy). 

Dayia Cheese
This is a great alternative cheese company for those of us who are gluten and dairy free. If you have tried it in the past and wasn't a huge fan, they recently updated all their recipes and it is now really good!

Primal Kitchen Steak Sauce 
I love this steak sauce because it's organic, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan and no soy!

The Foster's Review

The Foster's Review
I just finished watching The Foster's on Hulu. The show was originally on Freeform. I remember when it first was released back in 2013, but during that time our life was in full swing trying to help Mia live her day to day life with all the challenges that brought. 

I fell in love with this show! The actors do a fantastic job portraying their character. The series addresses many significant topics such as racial/economic/social inequality, the importance of letting all voices be heard, the damage and issues within the foster care system, the significance in family and friend relationships and the impact they can have in other lives, and so much more.

This show will take your emotions on a journey, but I also think it's a great show to give other perspective on things they may say or do that could hurt others in unintentional ways. I love it when a show can be eye opening. There was something in each episode with the storyline that keeps you wrapped in. I never got bored or was ready for it just be over to see what was going to happen next.

It was really hard for me to pick a favorite character for this show, but I have to choose Callie. She is a beautiful young lady and loves others so deeply. Her heart for wanting to help others is her best quality! 

Now, I will be watching the spinoff show, Good Trouble!

Gluten and Dairy Free Potato 🥔 Soup

Gluten and Dairy Free Potato 🥔 Soup
Potato Soup is one of those comfort foods that our family loves. Here is how we still enjoy this family favorite but keep it gluten and dairy free!

3-4 lbs Red Potatoes, diced
1 bunch celery, diced 
6 large 🥕carrots, diced 
1 large onion, diced 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
4 cups liquid (chicken broth, bone broth, or water) 
Salt and Pepper 

Toss in Instant Pot 
Turn on soup setting for 15 minutes 
Then add:
Chopped Kale (optional) 
2 cans coconut 🥥 milk (only add the thick part from the can, not the clear liquid) 
Place cover back on for 5-7 minutes 
Once completed, add 3-4 drops of Basil 🌿 Vitality Essential Oil 


 
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