Financial Roadtrip

1995 Toyota Corolla

I have been saving just about my entire life. I always had a savings account while growing up and my mom and grandfather would talk about stocks and bonds and real estate investments, while my pops lead by example with frugal spending. I’m still driving the beat up ’95 Toyota Corolla I moved to Seattle in!

While in college working at an ice cream shop and living in a house with five guys and only one bathroom (my room was the windowless pantry behind the bathroom!), I managed to save about $2k. Internet wasn’t really a thing so I called around and found a rural bank in Kansas that had savings bonds with 5% interest. I mailed my check to Kansas and waited a year for the rewards. Easy money!

After moving in with Mr. ItchyFeet and starting my career as a Medical Technologist, I starting saving for real. It took me about two years, but I finally saved enough to invest in a condo. Not a great condo, but a condo in need of a lot of love in a really great area of Seattle. This was the start of 15 years of almost constant construction and house projects!

Condo kitchen before remodel
Condo kitchen before remodel. Everything was wallpapered! Everything.
Condo kitchen after remodel
Condo kitchen after remodel. We took out a wall and opened it to the living room.

At the same time, I started putting money into a 401k. I put about $2k into that account and Northwest Hospital matched it. I didn’t get a huge selection of stocks so I chose about nine with a mix of short, mid, bonds, international, and domestic stocks all with good ten year average returns. I tried to avoid companies that looked shady to me. And then I just let it ride.

That 401k went through a lot of transition and I ultimately had to convert to an IRA because UWMC bought Northwest Hospital, but my $2k turned into over $40k because compounding interest is amazing! I paid into other retirement stocks, but that one was the most fun to watch!

We took about ten years to fix and then sell the condo. We didn’t make a ton of profit on it, but we made enough to effectively live there rent free. It was a great way to encourage forced saving, because every monthly payment to pay down the loan came back to us when we finally sold. That (and help from my parents and some shady bank loans) allowed us to purchase a very large house in need of a lot of work in an even nicer area of Seattle. 

That house was in some serious need of love. It had ivy growing into the storm windows, moldy carpet, and a random pipe protruding into the kitchen. The drawers would fall out if you pulled them too far and the side gutter drained into the neighbor’s yard (that’s illegal!).

However, our elderly dog was so excited about that carpet! It was worth it just for her. The plan was to live in the house and slowly fix it up over the next ten years. About a year in, Mr. ItchyFeet broke his neck and all our plans changed. The house became too much of a project and we had to hire out for a lot more of the work. We also had to change our timeline, as it would be too expensive to live in the area with only my income.

It took us five years to fix up the house and a hell of a lot more investment but it was worth it. We made sure to keep the carpet until our doggy sadly departed us. We sold for a nice profit (tax free because we lived in it) and put the money into a selection of index funds. This would allow us to live off the interest (after cutting our spending) for a very long time.

House kitchen before remodel
House kitchen before remodel. Notice the weird pipe by the upper cabinets.
House kitchen after remodel
House kitchen after remodel. We created a bar to the living room.

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  1. Oooh great post! The lab will miss you greatly, but I am excited to read more about your adventures!!

  2. […] I really understood what compounding interest was and why it was so fantastic. I put $2000 into my first 401k and my employer matched it. The retirement account was a blended mix that was mostly just index […]

  3. Sure fun to read yr posts, Mz K.

  4. […] we could do. The main ideas behind FIRE are to work hard to save and invest a LOT during your early years, learn early to live on less, and retire by using the interest money from the investments. It […]

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