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How We Paid Cash for Our First Home

I’m honored to be guest posting over on Get Rich Slowly today about How We Paid Cash for Our First Home. Here’s a snippet:

When my husband and I got married nine years ago, we had an audacious dream of paying cash for our first home. At that time, it was very much a far-off dream — we were just trying to survive the rigors and expenses of law school without going in debt. That alone was a seemingly gigantic feat.

But after three years of law school, my husband did graduate without debt, passed the bar, and we started planning for the future. Since we’d been renting for almost four years, my husband had a good job, and our second baby was on the way, pretty much everyone expected that buying a house would be in our immediate future.

I mean, after all, isn’t buying a house the responsible thing for a young couple to do? Well, maybe — or maybe not. We didn’t have much money in savings, and we weren’t sure how long we would be living in the town we were in, so we chose to go against conventional wisdom and continued renting.

Read the whole post.

There are lots of interesting comments in the comments section on the pros and cons of renting versus buying and mortgages versus cash that you might want to check out, as well. As I’ve mentioned many times before, remember that what worked for us won’t necessarily work for you in your own unique situation, but we hope that our story can serve as an inspiration for you to set big goals and work hard toward them.

Perseverance, persistence, and patience does pay off!

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  • September says:

    I’ve followed your blog for quite a while and I *still* love reading this story. Congrats on all your hard work!

    Last year we were able to pay cash for our home and it was an exhilarating feeling! Ironically, last month we ended up taking out a small mortgage for a fraction of the value; we’re investing in a business and–even factoring in interest (which was at a record low)–our money is producing a greater rate of return invested than the mortgage is costing us. It made financial sense but after NOT having a mortgage we’re both determined to get rid of this one as quickly as possible.

  • Alison says:

    I’ve noticed that many of the commenters at GRS are not very kind (in general), so I was not surprised that there were so many naysayers there today. I think what you did was amazing and inspirational, thank you again for sharing your story.

    • Nicole says:

      Crystal, I agree with Allison…many of the comments on the link are not very nice. Home prices and situations are different in different areas geographically. Its just a fact. Beyond that fact and all the negative comments, I find the takeaway of your story to be that with hard work and perseverence toward a goal you can be very successful. Thanks Crystal for the encouraging story, even if we are not all in the same financial place. Don’t let the negative comments get you discouraged!

      • Tammy says:

        I would imagine many people reading her story at GRS are reading it for the first time.Trust me she has had many negative and rude comments over the year on her blogs.

        I am glad to see the real amount in numbers to help make sense on how much was saved.It isn’t that I am nosey but puts the story into WOW that is amazing that you and Jesse paid cash for you house.

  • Sara says:

    What a wonderful accomplishment. Something we wish to do *someday*! (In an area where the median home price is close to $500,000, it’s just not workable right now.)
    One thing I have ALWAYS wondered, though. Did you completely drain your savings to purchase the home, or did you save enough to still have a cushion of savings when you purchased?
    I have always wondered if, if we had $500,000 cash to actually put up for a home, whether it would be unwise to throw that all into a house and be completely bankrupt otherwise. Just curious, since this is one of our long term goals 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      We did mostly drain our bank account (minus a small emergency fund). We probably wouldn’t recommend that others do that, but it was something we both decided we were okay with doing knowing that we would spend the next year building our emergency fund back up.

      • Sara says:

        Thank you for the response! And, you’re right, maintaining the same spending habits after reaching your goal probably allowed for you to rebuild your emergency fund pretty quickly!
        This last year we have had SO many unexpected expenses. It feels like we’re always building back up our emergency fund, only to have something else come up! But, we are grateful for jobs and health, and if our “fun fund” is compromised for a few years, that’s okay 🙂

  • It was nice to see the actual amount that you saved – here on the blog, you always referred to the amount you were saving in percentages.

    You are an inspiration!

    Laura @ Frugal Follies

  • Jessica says:

    We paid our home off in 14 months. I never could have guessed how freeing it would be to not have any kind of debt. We aren’t rich, but I feel rich with my fourteen year old car and our modest home because it is ours. Thank you for your blog that has inspired me to save and to set big goals!

  • Awesome inspiration. Would love to downsize and pay off the mortgage. Still working on that. In the meantime, we’ve refi’d and were able to shave off 5 more years and lowered the payment by $50 with a no cost (0) loan. That was definitely a no brainer! Income is down now, but we hope to be paying extra on the principle in the near future.

  • Audrey T says:

    Crystal, I know people give you a hard time for wanting to be debt free and pay cash for a house, but girl, you and Jesse are AWESOME for it! The only debt we have is our mortgage, but still, it is a CHUNK of debt, and I wish we had the intensity and self-discipline that you and Jesse had. At the very least, you guys grew together in an amazing way having that huge goal to focus on. You guys are awesome and should be an inspiration and encouragement to us all. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously out of touch with the reality of their finances or is jealous. You go girl!

  • Jennifer says:

    That’s too bad, because I stopped reading Get Rich Slowly when the author decided to divorce his wife.

    • Catherine says:


    • Claudia says:

      I did too, Jennifer! Especially when he posted that she didn’t want a divorce, but he was still pushing for it.
      The way I see it, I don’t want to take any kind of advice, financial or otherwise, from someone whose priorities are that messed up.

    • Leigh Ann says:

      Same here. I believe in upholding your marriage vows (except in extreme circumstances, such as abuse), and J.D. (of Get Rich Slowly) definitely feels differently. I don’t mean to come across as judgmental, but it’s hard for me to relate to values I don’t share.
      I followed that blog (as well as this one) for a long time, and I’ll miss his great writing.

      • I feel for his wife. My ex husband divorced me after 18 years of marriage.. I didn’t want that. Its hard to understand why people cannot uphold their commitments and why some are unwilling to try counseling, etc. What’s tough for me—as someone who does not believe in divorce, yet IS divorced, is that there is a certain amount of stigma attached to it. I feel bad that I’m a divorced person.

        On a positive note, I am now dating a wonderful, wonderful man who shares my faith and beliefs. We hope to get married in the next year or so. I’m blessed to have someone who truly loves and cherishes me exactly as I am.

        • Toni says:

          Oh Cheryl, I wish you blessing upon blessing. I’m so sorry you found yourself in a place you did not desire. God knows your heart.

        • Crystal says:

          {Hugs} to you Cheryl! I am so sorry you had to go through that! 🙁 But I am thankful that you have such a positive attitude in the midst of what must have been utter heartache.

          Many blessings on your new relationship!

          • Thanks both of you for your kind words!

            It was very, very difficult to go through. But I feel that God blessed me through it. And I never would have the love I have now had I not gone through it, nor would I have accomplished some of the things I’ve accomplished in the past 7 years–I got my degree and I co-founded a group for mid-life singles to get together for fun in a faith-filled environment-which has done a great deal of good for our over 200 members. So even though I don’t understand God’s plan, it seems to work out for good in the end.

  • My favorite part of this, Crystal, is how you’re teaching your children to be financially savvy and independent. That’s one of the best gifts you can give them, and your showing them how to live UNDER their means will serve them well in the future.
    Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  • Courtney says:

    Wow! I find your “gazelle like intensity” very impressive! We havea a mortgage, and in my current mindeset of not living life in regret, I’m okay with it…BUT our {real} goal is to save like crazy so we can buy some land and build a house/mini-farm! Here’s to hoping I can have the “gazelle like intensity” you two had! Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephanie says:

    I think it is important to realize that lessons can be learned from your experience even if people can’t or choose not to follow your exact example. We rented when we moved to our town (because we had a house to sell in another town). It was the best thing we could have done. We really learned alot about the town and didn’t make a mistake of buying a house in a wrong area or spending too much for what we thought was the right area. I can’t imagine we would ever be able to save enough cash for a house, but we are still going against the grain in planning on staying in our house for the long haul instead of moving up in size. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • That is SO true! I’m a single mom and I work full time. I could never save up enough in 5 years to pay for a house–I think that would be difficult for any single earner household (assuming a middle class wage). BUT, there are lessons to be gleaned from this article for everyone… I could apply the same principal to paying cash for a car–which is much more attainable for me.

      I think people tend to read financial stories/advice and immediately try to apply it to their own circumstances. So maybe if people can’t relate, they feel negative. Clearly if someone doesn’t have the earning potential or has other debt, that has to be considered before paying off a mortgage (or paying cash for a house). That’s why I like Dave Ramsey’s program so much—he gives people a step by step plan—paying off the mortgage is a bit down the list!

  • Rose says:


    As a long time reader of GRS, I loved your article. What a story! I’ve only recently embarked on the debt-elimination adventure, and it’s wonderful to run across these stories. We did save up and pay cash for our wedding, and today I paid off my highest-interest credit card, so we’re making progress.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Laura says:

    I think a lot of the comments on the article’s post are missing the big picture of what was accomplished. Yes buying a house with cash is very impressive but I see the main point being that they set a goal and they reached it. Of course not everyone can pay cash for a house but paying cash for other big purchases like a car can be done. It just takes planning and determination to make it happen. I find the article very inspiring!

  • Crystal, what a great example of doing what God has called your family to do – even when others criticize you. You’ve also been very gracious to people who at times are not very nice to you and that has also been an amazing example.

  • KimH says:

    I love reading stories like yours Crystal. That you were from the beginning blessed with a mate that was willing to work with you & for you & your family to achieve goals together. I’ve never been able to find a man who was willing to do that in my life. While that made many times in my life difficult, I learned some lessons worth learning, the main one being, No one else is going to take care of me, so I’d better do it myself or suffer the consequences, and I have no desire to suffer. 😉
    Thanks for sharing your inspiration.. & your blog.

  • Heather says:

    I never get tired of this story and am loving your book 🙂 Such an inspiration! We are finally getting our act together as we have wasted too many years paying someone else’s mortgage (we rent)! It was always next year we will buy “that” home, but then life got in the way and that next year flew by. Enough is enough…our goals are solid and our determination is even stronger. Faith and prayer we are counting on too! Thanks for the reminder with this post!

  • Michelle says:

    I’m a bit disturbed by some of the commentary over on GRS. Do people who live in major cities think that all of us in the “interior” of the US are living in a different world? Really, we have decent schools, nice houses, good medical care . . . it’s not the end of the world, it’s the MidWest!

    Those people who were saying “I can’t because I live in ________” fail to see the point — they choose to live there and the cost of housing is part of the deal.

    • Amy says:

      Shhh, don’t tell them how wonderful we have it in the MidWest! 🙂 I read some of the comments and some are just rude! Not a very friendly atmosphere. They are missing the point, and I think a lot of the people who are commenting like that are just trying to find excuses for not saving.

      Love your story, Crystal and love your blog!

      • Christina says:

        I agree Amy. My husband and I were born, raised and still live in ND. We make a point to tell people how awful our winters are and lack of amenities just to keep them out. We enjoy our “simple” life here and don’t feel like we are missing out on anything.

    • Guest says:

      We lived in Washington, DC, for a decade and relocated to my home state in the south in 2010. People made jokes about the hillbillies and the hicks and general lack of culture. Within a year and a half, we had paid off both cars and $22K in student loans, fully funded a 9 month emergency savings, and moved into a beautiful new home that is twice the size and half the price of our home in DC. We are now debt free (except the mortgage which is 10% of our take home pay), the schools are great, people wear shoes, my cardiologist has worked all over the world and we now have a world-class art museum. Let them enjoy their big city life. I’ll fly back when I want to be reminded why we moved. 😉

    • Heather says:

      Well, there are some jobs/careers where you really do have to at least start out in NY, LA or a few other large urban centers. So I can empathize with people feel a bit stuck where they are. A career change isn’t always the answer. Some people may want to stay near aging parents to assist in the care.

      That said, I do not care for those rude attitudes, either.

    • Not everyone chooses to live where they are! My husband is a pastor and for our first call, we went where we told to go – no choice in the matter.

      Don’t forget about military either – they often don’t choose their location.

      • Michelle says:

        Been there, done that. Been to Anchorage, Alaska; been to Incirlik, Turkey; been to Okinawa, Japan; been to Sumter, South Carolina; been to Osan, Korea!

        But, again, it’s about choices. When my husband joined the military, he knew he would be moved at the mercy of the armed forces. And when I agreed to marry him, I signed on for the ride!

  • analisa lopez says:

    One of the main things I was noticing about the comments on that page was people talking about how a mortgage is a tax deduction. Does that even make sense? You would have a lot more money through the year not paying a mortgage than you would get back during tax season?!! I guess not everyone can be you! Thanks for all that you do and inspiring us daily:]

  • JWalton says:

    You and your husband are definitely an inspiration. I strongly believe you achieved your goal earlier than anticipated you both were in agreement and it opened a door of possibilities. As Rose stated above, I’m a long-time GRS reader and am finally getting into debt payoff (thanks to Dave Ramsey). You all have definitely lived like no one else, so you can live like no one else.

    I appreciate your openess and willingness to share your story. You just gained a new reader.

  • august says:

    So many people are taking this the wrong way. If you can’t buy a home in your area, save for something closer to reality. Sure, I couldn’t buy a 500k house in 2 1/2 years cash, but I could buy a car cash. Or I could save a VERY nice amount for a down payment. Stop focusing on the obvious, and read between the lines. It’s about making goals, sticking to them, and then reaping the benifits. We already have a house, and right now we can’t afford to pay it off, because I’m a full time student, and my husband makes a little over minimum wage. BUT in a year and a half, I’ll be out of school, debt free, and then we can focus on that.

    As for now, we are getting ready to buy a car, in full, in a month. That’s a smaller goal, closer to reality for us, but still the same meaning.

  • Stephanie says:

    Girl you’re going and getting all famous on us!! A book, the 700 club, famous magazine, blogs, it goes on! Just promise to stay the same ol’ sweet, down to earth Crystal, ok? 😉

  • johanna says:

    I think we have a lot in common:) Except that I haven’t bought a house in cash. My husband and I have never had debt. We are committed to getting him through Seminary completely debt free (which is a huge undertaking considering he is also going to do a PhD). We live in a tiny apartment with 3 kids! He works as much as he can, and goes to school full time. Thanks for the inspiration to keep on!

    • Crystal says:

      Way to go! It will be so worth it–keep on living a counter-cultural life!

    • Johanna, going through Seminary debt free is so very worth it. My dh started Seminary when we had 1 child and we had 4 by the time he graduated. It took 6 years, but he has 2 Master’s degrees. He graduated 11 years ago and not having that debt has really given us some freedom to truly follow God’s calling. So be encouraged, you will be so glad you sacrificed today so you can freely follow God when your husband graduates.

    • Hattie says:

      Hang in there–I know it can seem like forever when you’re in the middle of it! My hubby just finished a PhD in Mech Eng (took 7 years–we were married for 6 of those, and had 2 kiddos!) and went to work at his first job this past September. I’m an RN, and I worked the first 3 years of our marriage. We’ve never had debt (singly or married), other than the house we owned while he was in grad school (and sold to move for his job) and the house that we bought here in SoCal. Those grad school hours can be long, but they won’t last forever!

  • jen says:

    I have always been inspired by you. We bought our home two years ago and have Never had debt besides our mortgage. BUt I want to encourage your readers that not everyone may pay cash for a house, but we can all live financially responsibly. My husband and I are in our 20s, paid cash for college AND grad school, and put 60k down on our house, plus did 60k in renovations…enough we could have paid cash in some parts of the country, like where you live. Neither of us were given any money from our parents. We hope to have our house paid for in 6 years. We just did without luxuries most enjoy and worked HARD so we could have financial stability…and there is no better feeling!

  • Christine says:

    Hey! I just found your site this week and I’ve been reading through tons of old posts! Thanks for sharing your life with the world. You are just the inspiration I’ve been needing!

  • Ace1234 says:

    Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! I LOVE that story.
    I read it in your blog archives whenever my gazelle needs intensifying 🙂
    Still rejoicing with you over a fabulous accomplishment.

    …and the negative comments? I keep hearing Dave say: “You know you’re on the right track if people are making fun of you”

    Kudos and much love

    • julie says:

      I love that quote! I try to remember it every time I cram our three kids into the back of my rusty, hand-me-down car from my great-grandma…..not cool, but it came debt-free 🙂

  • Linzi says:

    Hi Crystal,
    Your post is very inspiring and I applaud your choices and I can totally relate to it as we too had decided a long time ago to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. My husband and I married young (we have been married 14 years and I am 33) and we both finished grad school(MS Engineering and MBA for my hubby and MA in linguistics for me) with no debt and we had decided to have children only when we could afford them. We travelled around the world, had a lot of fun together, worked jobs we loved and 5 years ago we had our first son and bought our house and cars with cash(by check actually!). 2 years later we have our second son and we are determined to continue our debt free lifestyle . I understand that not everyone is in the same situation, in terms of living in a high-cost-of-living area(we live in TX) or not having the means to earn more, but where we are today is due to the choices and sacrifices we made early on and still do on occassion.

  • Deirdre says:

    Thanks for sharing your story again with us. My husband and I moved out of state for a ministry position and after we sell our house back in Tx (we have a contract on it now), we plan to save until we have the money to build our own house. It’s so encouraging to see that it can actually be done!

  • Wendy Jahns says:


    I admire you and follow all those words of wisdom that you always share with us. I am thankful that I found your blog last year, and since then…I have changed most of my bad money management habits, and my life couldn’t be happier now.
    I’m originally from Guatemala (Central America), we had difficult times financially growing up, but my family always found ways to multiply the little that we had. But, when I came here (US) I was 17 years old and that principle just slipped out of my hands. I started working and started wasting my money as well. I was not a good steward with money. I was eating out 3 times a day, 2 Starbucks a day, and many other dumb things that now I just REGRET so much. If I had found you 5 years ago, probably I will have a house paid off today. (I’m a workaholic also!)
    You are a great inspiration to me, and your testimony is real. For that reason, I told my husband that no matter what, we need to pay our house in 5 years… I already wasted a lot of $, so now I’m ready to recoup our financial freedom and peace. It just takes creativity to make money 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    Like others, I always love to hear this story from you! It shows that goal setting is very important, no matter the size of the goal.

    I read some of the comments over at GRS and I believe some of the negative comments stem from the fact that buying your home with cash goes against the grain of what we’re bombarded with in America. One minute there’s a commercial on TV sending us the message that it’s okay to go into debt and the next minute there’s another commercial telling us “we can help you get out of debt”.

    While I do think it’s okay to have a mortgage on a home because sometimes that’s the only path to home ownership, we concentrated on paying ours off early-and we did! It’s very comforting to know that even if the rest of the world crashes around me, as long as I can still pay the property taxes, my family will have a roof over their head.

  • Kari says:

    I always love reading your story about paying cash for your home. My husband and I are saving to do the same and it’s always nice to know that someone else has succeeded in doing this when it sometimes feels unattainable.

    My question is this: Did you and Jesse contribute towards your IRAs when saving for your home or did everything go towards the house fund? We have been fully funding our IRAs for the last several years. I know we would be much closer to our goal if we were instead putting that $10,000 towards our home.

    • Crystal says:

      We delayed most of our retirement savings until after we purchased our home. It was a decision we mutually made and we don’t regret it, but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that others do what we did–especially if you are older than us or are going to be saving for a longer period of time.

  • Viva says:

    Excellent post- very inspiring. -Viva from The Daily Citron

  • Kathy says:

    I read the comments on GRS and found the most amazing one to be, “I want to have a life”. So having a bunch of debt is having a life? Ha! Thanks, but I’d rather be free than have a life burdened with debt.

    When someone posts an article that doesn’t specifically address each reader’s personal current position, it seems to make the reader angry. I was raised to “eat the chicken and throw away the bones”. Even if the reader can’t realistically pay cash for a home in their area, they could certainly take away the lesson of living below your means and striving to be debt free. Sheesh!

    • Katie says:

      I think that commenter was saying that they would have taken longer to save for a house and not lived quite so bare-boned. You can have a life without debt that doesn’t include living on rice and beans while saving $100,000 in three years.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Crystal! I waited for every installment when you did your series on how you saved 100% for a house and it inspired us to work towards goals. We are now working our way of out debt and saving for our house. We aren’t planning to pay 100% down but we are planning on about 30% down and saving 30-40% by doing work ourselves and then leaving us with a mortgage of about 30-40%.

  • Ashley M says:

    Very inspiring. Every story is different. My husband and I chose to live in a 5th wheel trailer when we got married. It’s not easy. Especially since we had a baby boy in late 2010. But we have no debt (which helps a lot) We are able to save $1000 a month towards a house. That is with a $29,000/yr. income. In three more years (seems like forever! lol) we will have paid off our 2010 Pickup two years early, paid off our 5th wheel 1.5 yrs. early and have 40% down for the $100,000 farm we are looking to buy (here in Tx.) and hubby and I are only 22. We both grew up on farms with families that taught us financial responsibility and good work ethics. To instill this in our children is our ultimate goal.

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