Our Debt Free Journey Part 2: Making Extra Income and Finding Your Why

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If you are here, it means you actually LIKED what I had to say in Part 1, + you couldn’t wait to hear the last five tips in Part 2 of this blog post series this evening! My heart is so full knowing that you are desiring to live this debt free life as well, + I am so very proud of you. As I said in my last post, this debt free journey is 80% habit, + 20% head knowledge. By coming here, you are getting pieces of that head knowledge so that YOU can put it to work daily to become habit. YOU. Yes, you. YOU have a choice on how you are going to live. It does not always mean it is going to be easy, trust me. You will hear JUST how hard we worked this year + some of the wild jobs Josh picked up, but don’t you want to live a bigger + more meaningful life than one that is paycheck to paycheck? I thought you would say yes!

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
— Nelson Mandella

Now that you have heard the first step + about hanging your habits, I am going to dive straight into the core of what we actually did to either save money or make extra money! Get ready! You might be tired after simply reading it! Remember, number 10 is so important, so read all the way til the end!

6 -STOP EATING OUT: Y'all, I don’t think you even understand how much more expensive it is to eat out all the time than to eat at home. When Josh + I  sat down + did our first budget, the percentage of our take home pay that we were just throwing away to eating out blew us away. Now, I am not saying that you can never in your life eat out, but, while Josh + I are on this debt free journey, we decided that it is not a value to eat out during this season of sacrifice. We have only eaten out if we have had a gift card, which is pretty rare, but always welcomed! However, it was, + still is, incredibly important for us to share meals with people we love. When we wrote down our values, sharing meals with people was on that list. What we discovered is that instead of going out to eat, we decided we would invite friends into our home, cook dinner together, or have a potluck meal where everyone would bring a dish, + then we would finish the evening playing games + strengthening our friendships. I promise, your relationships will deepen on this debt free journey when you invite people into your home, + your life will already become richer. You simply have to get creative with meals + date nights when you are on this journey, + cooking all the time in our home with my husband has been one of my favorite parts of this journey. Our favorite meals to cook are: white chicken chili, buffalo chicken wraps, tacos, crock pot steel cut oats, banana bread, salmon + asparagus, hamburgers + hot dogs on the grill, tofu lasagna, + many other new + interesting dishes!

The last piece I will say about not eating out is that I am an experiential person to a T. I really enjoy creating moments + having special ambiances for dinners. With this in mind, Josh + I found a table on Pinterest that we loved, + we DIY-ed this 8-foot farm table for our back porch for CHEAP because we did all the labor.

When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.
— Unknown

Josh already owned outdoor tea lights, so we hung them out over the table, + voila; romantic ambiance created as if we were out at a private restaurant that we got all to ourselves! We would cook + eat dinners all summer on the back porch, + then finish the night just simply talking, without breaking the bank. 

It was SUCH a special part of our debt free journey in 2017 + our relationship growing, that Josh bought me an ornament for our 2017 Christmas: tea lights over a back porch to remember our second Christmas as Mr. + Mrs. by. If you think that the debt free journey will rob you of memories, then you are sorely mistaken. You simply have to be willing to do it a LITTLE different, put in a little more effort, plan meals a little farther in advance, be a little more creative, + maybe, just maybe, eating in your own home will become some of your best memories. (Isn't this ornament a keeper? I cried!)

 If you go back to Part 1 of this series, you will see more of the tea lights over our back porch farm table. It was truly magical, and this ornament looks JUST like our back porch in the evening. During this process, don't forget to CELEBRATE the moments that changed you with little momentos like this ornament. They will be cherished milestones forever.

If you go back to Part 1 of this series, you will see more of the tea lights over our back porch farm table. It was truly magical, and this ornament looks JUST like our back porch in the evening. During this process, don't forget to CELEBRATE the moments that changed you with little momentos like this ornament. They will be cherished milestones forever.

7 - WORK REALLY FREAKING HARD: Ok, if I can be honest, this is where the rubber meets the road, + it gets really hard. Josh picked up so many jobs last year that I actually don’t even know when he slept. (On top of extra jobs, we don’t have a dishwasher, + he does our dishes all by hand!) If you really want to see traction on your debt payoff, you're GOING TO HAVE to be gazelle intense, work when you're not working, + be humble enough to pick up even the most menial of jobs. Last year, Josh worked the following jobs: 

  1. Valet at Churchill Downs: Every Saturday + Sunday he would park cars all day, + would make a minimum of $200 every shift (he worked the entire Thanksgiving weekend, + evenings during the week if they needed help) He would bring his lunch to this job as not to have to buy lunch while working. I was that 'future-mom' who wrote him notes + put them in his lunch box! (Sorry, future kids, my love language is hand written letters! You WILL get them in your brown paper bag.)
  2. Canadian Coin Exchange: He bought coins from the city of Louisville when he worked for SP+, sorted them in the evenings while Netflix played, + shipped all of the Canadian coins to a small business in Vermont where they would cross the border with the coins, exchange them, + then cut Josh a check with a 10% fee. He made about $4500 total doing this alone, + he did it all from our basement.
  3. Amazon Business Sorter: He picked up a job at a small business down the street that a gentleman in our church runs in the evenings where he sorted through inventory that the business was selling on Amazon in bulk. In that building there was NO AC, NO BATHROOM, + NO TV. (Talk about a champion!)
Nothing will work unless you do.
— Maya Angelou

All the while, he was finishing his college degree, + working full time. Trust me when I say, we have made incredible sacrifices + we have worked REALLY FREAKING HARD to accomplish what we did last year. But, we wouldn’t change a THING. This is where the inspiring part of this post becomes real + tangible, because these extra jobs allowed us to simply put extra cash straight in the bank that went to debt. When Josh would come home with cash, I would slip on my flips-flops or slippers, we would jump in the car, + make it a date to Chase Bank to deposit the money in the ATM. (That was our wild + crazy way of celebrating the work!) This deep sacrifice may sound CRAZY, but it is what we have chosen to do because our dreams are bigger than the sacrifice we are making now. 

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
— Maya Angelou

8 - SELL THINGS IN YOUR HOME: When we started this journey, we didn't think that there was much we could sell. Everything in our home somehow was irreplaceable + something we used 'all the time'. But then, as we moved along in this journey, + values changed, we began to continually learn what we really 'need', + we began to sell things like CRAZY. We sold Josh's road bike + trainer, furniture, mirrors, extra beds, wall decor, clothing, + so much more. We have a storage room downstairs that I swear we have gone through 10 times, + every single time, we end up finding something in there that we can sell. OK, time to guess something: Do you want to know the NUMBER ONE place that we had hits on selling stuff? Facebook Marketplace! We tried on Offer Up + Let Go, + we just saw so much more profit + exposure on FB Marketplace. If you begin this journey + are looking to sell stuff from your home online, FB Marketplace is the way to go! As we sold more + more, Josh + I began to see our home declutter, become more minimal, + be filled with more things that are REALLY important, not just things that were 'taking up space'. We now have the sentimental pieces that tell our story 'shine' in our little 1000 sq. ft. home, + it becomes a sweet reminder of our love, not the material things.

One day, I will calligraph this song below, as it perfectly describes 'Our Home' right now, + it sure isn't these four walls, it is the memories we are making in it together on this journey. Right now, I would rather build big memories in our small home, than build big stress day after day wondering how the mortgage will be paid + how the house will be fully furnished:

"...I know the walls are for now a little empty
But you’ve the eye of an artist
So let’s paint the walls with laughter
Until not a spot is missed

Entwine your treasures on the shelves with mine
And hang your dresses by the mirror
I’ve never heard my heart sing
The way it is now that you’re here

This, oh this, this will be our home

For tonight let’s leave the dishes in the sink
And our shoes by the bottom stair
For dancin’ in the kitchen’s better
When your feet are bare

And one day we’ll own a piano
And a fireplace where all the music will go
Up through the chimney
Oh we’ll play for all the stars

This, oh this, this will be our home

And one day we’ll add a room or two
For little feet to come pattering through
But for now, this home will just hold me and you

And our home may soon change places
As we bound mountains
And walk on oceans without fear
But for now our adventure lies here
Oh for now, our adventure lies here."

-John Lucas "This Will Be Our Home"

9 - START A SMALL BUSINESS: While my husband was working his boo-tay off, he pushed me to step out to start the small business I have been dreaming of starting: Letter and Knot Co. This time last year, this business did not exist. But, to contribute to our debt free journey, I started it to not only do something I am passionate about, but fight for our dreams as well by making extra money. This quickly turned from a money maker to a passion that I started to think I just might one day want to go full time with. I have sat up very late into the evenings learning new things, navigating new software, figuring out the hard topic of pricing in the calligraphy industry, + serving each of YOU with custom pieces for your weddings, homes, gifts, new babies, + more. It has been the part of 2017 that has grown me + pushed me outside of my comfort zone more than anything else this past year.

There were times where I felt COMPLETELY unqualified to say 'yes' to a new project, but the one thing that I knew was that I am really smart, I am really creative, + I am really good at this; I had to repeat to myself that I WILL be successful, + you know what, I always found a way, I always figured it out, + it 99% of the time turned out so much better than I dreamed. Isn't is funny how we (ladies, you know I am talking to you!) doubt ourselves so often, but we have such big dreams? What if we started to believe in ourselves more than we doubted ourselves, + we did 'that' thing ANYWAYS, maybe before we were 100% ready? I think we might just surprise ourselves!

Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.
— Amy Poehler

Last year alone, I created custom pieces for 7 weddings, taught my first ever calligraphy workshop, was a vendor in 3 styled shoots, was asked to be a vendor at Made Weddings (A live curated wedding vendor show! Umm, hello what?), I learned 7 new pieces of software (so much for not being technical. When you put your mind to something + you are passionate, you can overcome anything!), designed my own personal studio in our home for me to create in, + created countless custom pieces for new babies, homes, + decor. 

Then, today, (BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!) I had my VERY LAST day at my corporate full-time job + I am taking this business FULL-TIME: Letter and Knot Co is 100% all mine! Can you even believe that? One year ago, Josh + I were paying so much per month to debt that we would not have been able to live off of his income. BUT because of how many jobs Josh picked up, because of how many pieces I sold, because we payed off $42,000 in debt, we are now at a place where we can CHOOSE what we want to do, + not have our debt choose our work for us.

When you choose the debt free life, you are choosing to make decisions based off of your passions, not off of your fears or out of duty to make a certain amount of money. It truly is financial freedom.
— Ashley Margaret Craft
 Yesterday, January 15th 2018, I officially turned in my notice at my 8-5 corporate job to begin the journey of full-time entrepreneurship with Letter + Knot Co! Dreams do come true, but they require a LOT of hard work.

Yesterday, January 15th 2018, I officially turned in my notice at my 8-5 corporate job to begin the journey of full-time entrepreneurship with Letter + Knot Co! Dreams do come true, but they require a LOT of hard work.

10 - DREAM REALLY BIG TOGETHER: Did you know that when you are working for something bigger than yourself, you can sacrifice pretty much anything for a short period of time? THIS one is in actuality the number ONE way Josh + I paid off $42,000 in debt. Together, we want so desperately to give WELL in the future. We want me to be able to stay home with our children without worry one day. We desire to open our home to our church when there is a need + serve those people well in our home with meals. We really want to adopt a little girl from Thailand + a little boy from Africa. We long to have options in life + not live as slaves to our debt. THAT is what gives us the perseverance to stay up well past midnight to turn around + be up at 6:30 AM to work hard so we can CRUSH this debt. THAT is how I was able to watch my husband spend Thanksgiving + that whole weekend at valet parking cars for cash while his family was in town. THAT is how we never ate out. THAT is how we sold so much in our home. THAT is how we said no to so many 'fun' opportunities. THAT is how we chose to look our debt in the face + attack it head on. THAT is how I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone to start my business, even though it required me learning something new at EVERY turn. It ALL starts with a WHY that is bigger than you are, + then the how just becomes simple, + you are willing to do anything.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

This will be one of the hardest adventures you will ever take if you truly go after your debt with gazelle intensity. You will have to talk about your dreams OFTEN + remind yourself DAILY of those 'why's' when you are working so hard + sacrificing so much. But I promise you, from being 1/3 of the way there (Almost!), it is 3,000% worth it, + we aren't even done yet! Don’t be like everyone else, friend. Everyone else is broke. Live the life you dreamed + the one that the Lord has called you to by taking off those chains of debt, + by choosing freedom. We only get this ONE life to live, + when we look back, + when we stand before the Lord, I really hope that we can know that we stewarded His money well, + hear him say 'well done, my good + faithful servant. You stewarded this WELL.' I think when you take this journey, you will have to redefine adventure. 

Adventure
/adˈven(t)SHər, ədˈven(t)SHər/
Noun
1. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Verb
2. engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
— Websters Dictionary

Adventure is so often thought of as going half way across the country to see a beautiful place, but, as I look back on this past year, every part of the definition of adventure was met in this debt free journey. It was unusual, exciting, sometimes hazardous with how little sleep we got, it was an experience we will never forget, + there were plenty of activities in our day to day. We explored entire new territories of life together; we explored new territories of our marriage, of knowing each other, of our passions, of our capabilities, + of our very values. I think adventure simply begins + ends with each moment of our life, + these moments this past year, well, they have been better than I could have dreamed.

"...And our home may soon change places
As we bound mountains
And walk on oceans without fear
But for now our adventure lies here
Oh for now, our adventure lies here."

CHALLENGE: I have one simple question for you. What is your 'why'? What is your dream that would make ALL of this sacrifice worth it, + make the how really easy? Once you can tell me that, you will set this world + your entire life on fire!

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Ashley Craft2 Comments